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Prisoners’ plight

The inmates in our country have to brave a number of predicaments during their confinement in prisons. Substandard food, inadequate facilities and harsh weather condition lead to deaths of prisoners before the culmination of their jail term. Reportedly, only in Camp Jail Lahore, as many as six prisoners have passed away in the last 12 days. It shows that they are meted out inhuman treatment in jails. In most parts of the country, jails are overcrowded where inmates are not being provided with necessary facilities, permissible to them under the constitution of Pakistan. The objective to turn the jails into correction houses could not be achieved with the present living conditions for which effective measures are need of the hour.

Media reports have often shed light on the condition of jails in the country. The information is disturbing in most cases and calls for immediate reform of the prison departments in all provinces. First, due to the imprisonment of a large number of offenders, it becomes difficult for the jail authorities to keep different categories of inmates in separate blocks and cells. The hazards of doing that should be obvious to anyone. Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions result in contagious diseases like hepatitis and scabies. Inmates in prisons across the country continue to live in poor hygienic conditions and contract such illnesses. Second, a large number of prisoners remain in jail due to their inability to pay for bail bonds. Many of them cannot afford legal fees and continue to languish in jails while waiting for their trials that linger on for months and years due to non-availability of services of competent lawyers. Because of overcrowding and the general attitude of jail authorities, there is barely any distinction between under-trial and convicted prisoners. Third, our jails do not offer any rehabilitation or reformative atmosphere for those criminals who need small doses of guidance for their character building. Instead of providing a congenial atmosphere, jails act as training centres for first-time offenders to commit bigger crimes and create a law and order situation in society.

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No decent society can lock people up and then forget about them. Overcrowding, unhygienic food, violence and unsatisfactory medical care are the unending issues of prisoners across Pakistan. There is an urgent need to develop a reform policy for prisons across the country.



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