Jail reforms need to be implemented

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Non-implementation of jail reforms and over-crowding, clubbed with drugs, is leading to a rise in immoral activities in jails across the country. According to a report on the country’s jails, non-implementation of jail reforms has not only led to an increase in the crime rate, but it has also led to immoral activities in jails. The jail reforms include separation between criminals of mild-natured crimes and hardcore criminals in jails, besides improving the condition of jail inmates that could ensure that jails act as a reformation centre instead of criminal institutions. According to the report, it was also recommended in the reforms that social personalities would frequently visit jails to help turn the criminals into law-abiding citizens, but it was not implemented.
The recommendations of the Federal Shariat Court have also not been implemented in letter and spirit, the report added. The Shariat Court had recommended the government make arrangements for conjugal visits of spouses of inmates. A conjugal visit is a scheduled extended visit during which an inmate of a prison is permitted to spend several hours or days in private, usually with a legal spouse. While the parties may engage in sexual acts, the generally recognised basis for permitting such a visit is to preserve family bonds and increase the chances of success for a prisoner’s eventual return to life outside prison. So far, such arrangements have been made at the Central Jail in Karachi and Peshawar, but other prisons across the country lack the facility.
The report pointed out that the facility is meant only for the influential prisoners and ordinary prisoners are denied the facility on one pretext or the other.
Rather, the facility has become a minting machine for prison officials, the report added. In some cases, a jail inmate is allowed to spend time with his spouse in the office of jail high-ups. The quality of food and health facilities at the prisons, especially for women, including availability of gynaecologists, was also under question.
The alarming aspect of the report is that non-implementation of jail reforms has also led to sexual relationship between male inmates. Jails of Sindh are leading the numbers on the activity, while Punjab is placed second.
Prisoners involved in petty crimes usually belong to poor families and don’t have the power and resources to get bail. Subsequently, they gang up with hardcore criminals in jails that subsequently leads to increased crime rate. According to the report, there are 32 jails in Punjab, 21 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 17 in Sindh, six in AJK and three in Northern Areas in which around 90,000 prisoners are housed, much more than capacity.
Overcrowding is one of the main issues that need to be addressed, as it creates problems like drug addiction, miserable food conditions, limited availability of space and spreading of various diseases of the skin, hepatitis and TB. A few months ago, Prime Minister Gilani asked the authorities concerned to prepare recommendations for jail reforms, adding that the focus should be improvement in the condition of jail inmates and jails should act as a reformation centre instead of producing criminals. However, nothing substantial has been worked out so far to bring a change in jails, which are without doubt contributing to criminal activities in and outside prison.