CM says wants to do more for jail birds


Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that he is committed to introduce effective and substantial jail reforms. “Whatever my government has done so far is not enough as much more is needed to turn jails into correction houses.”

The chief minister said this while presiding over a meeting regarding jail reforms in the light of Supreme Court instructions and the findings of federal ombudsman at the CM House on Friday. The meeting was attended by representative of federal ombudsman Shakeel Durani, Principal Secretary to CM Alamuddin Bullo, Home Secretary Jamal Shah, IG Jial Nusrat Mangan and others.

He said there were 25 jails in the province with a capacity of about 12,000 inmates but more than 21,000 felons were imprisoned there. “This overcrowding is root-cause of several other problems. The objective to turn the jails into correction houses can not be achieved with the present living conditions for which effective measures are need of the hour,” he said.

The chief minister said that he had been paying surprise visits to central jail Karachi and some other jails. “I have tasted food of Karachi Central Jail. Its naans are very tasty and quality of food is considerably better,” he said. However, being a political worker he was not satisfied with the plight of jails, he added.

Shakeel Durani, who represented the federal ombudsman, said that reforms in jails were required as per the jail manuals including segregation of under-trial and convicted prisoners, improvement in educational, recreational activities by introducing professional, technical education courses and arrangement for an endowment fund meant for the welfare of prisoners.

The chief minister said there was a need of an inspection team which could conduct inspection whenever they want, including the night-time. “During the nights what happens in the jails is not known. I am of the view that apart from inspection there should be an electronic vigilance of the inmates and jail officials,” he suggested.

IG Jail Nusrat Mangan said that there were separate jails for children, women and others in Karachi, Hyderabad and Larkana. He had a proper inspection arrangement for every jail, he maintained.

Home Secretary Syed Jamal Shah said that the idea of chief minister to turn jails into correction houses needed collective wisdom to envisage a comprehensive plan for welfare, character building and improve abnormal tendencies of the inmates. For the purpose collective meetings of provincial authorities, the federal ombudsman and philanthropists and civil society members should be involved to work out a workable plan, he suggested.

The chief minister said there was an important issue that most of the poor inmates, particularly the women, heirless children and foreigner used to have no money to pay their sureties and penalties. “The endowment fund to be funded by the federal government, philanthropists and provincial government would be utilised to pay the penalties or sureties.”

Shakeel Durani suggested that the endowment fund would be started from Rs 200 million which would be further enhanced.

The chief minister appreciated the guidelines of the Supreme Court for jail reforms and the efforts of the federal ombudsman, and assured that he would not only support the reforms but would personally give his input. “I am keen to make jail inmates useful citizens,” he said, and added that he himself had been imprisoned for years; therefore, he knew the problems which happened with the inmates in jails.