Overcrowded prisons

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IT would not be wrong to equate country’s prisons as ‘living hell’ given their deplorable conditions. Islamabad High Court was informed the other day that Adiala jail houses more than four thousand inmates against existing capacity of fifteen hundred. The situation in other prisons across the country is not very different as they are also packed beyond capacity and this has been revealed many times in several reports including that of the Federal Ombudsman.
Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah deserves appreciation for taking up the case regarding plight of prisoners who are being treated worst than animals. It was also on his directions that a Commission has been constituted to investigate human rights violations in prisons, which will also work regarding implementation of jail reforms regarding sick prisoners and would give suggestions. As matter is now seized with the IHC, we expect that recommendations to be furnished by the Commission will also be implemented in letter and in spirit to transform the prisons. The concerned authorities must understand that overcrowding as well as related problems such as lack of privacy can also cause or exacerbate mental health problems, increase rate of violence, self-harm and suicide. This state of affairs is especially alarming as minors, first-time offenders and petty thieves often share space with hardened criminals and terrorists in the prisons.
Apart from establishing more prisons and increasing capacity of existing facilities, it is important that these prisons are transformed into rehabilitation centres for the prisoners so that they are completely transformed persons after coming out of prisons. The rehabilitation centres established in Swat for de-radicalisation of terrorists is a good model to be emulated in our prisons which will also go a long way in bringing down crime rate.