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Thursday June 13, 2024

Sindh to introduce video link system in prisons: CS

By Salis bin Perwaiz
May 24, 2024
Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi (C to L) and Chief Secretary Sindh Syed Asif Hyder Shah (C to R) preside over a prison reform meeting on May 23, 2024. — Facebook/Sindh Government
Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi (C to L) and Chief Secretary Sindh Syed Asif Hyder Shah (C to R) preside over a prison reform meeting on May 23, 2024. — Facebook/Sindh Government

Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi and Chief Secretary Sindh Syed Asif Hyder Shah presided over a meeting regarding prison reforms on Thursday.

Officials said Senior Advisor to the Ombudsman Anwar Haider, the secretary of health, the inspector general of prisons, and officials from the Home Department Sindh attended the meeting. The primary focus of the meeting was to comprehensively assess the current state of prisons across Sindh and devise strategies for reforms.

CS Shah informed the meeting about several key initiatives aimed at enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the province’s correctional facilities. He said the provincial government plans to introduce an audio and video link system in all prisons across Sindh. This will enable prisoners to appear in court proceedings and talk with their families via video links.

He further stated that 500 acres of land will be allocated for the construction of a new prison in Karachi. This development is expected to alleviate overcrowding issues and improve living conditions for inmates.

Furthermore, the budget for provisioning quality food to prisoners has been significantly increased from Rs1,200 million to Rs2,400 million, underscoring the commitment to ensuring the well-being of inmates.

To strengthen oversight and accountability within the prison system, CS Shah announced the formation of 22 oversight committees, each dedicated to monitoring the conditions within a specific prison facility.

Moreover, highlighting the efforts to empower inmates through education and skill-building initiatives, it was announced that educational and vocational training programs are being extended to 2824 prisoners. Additionally, female prisoners in Karachi Central Jail are now being offered digital courses from prominent platforms such as Google and Amazon.

Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi expressed his satisfaction over the significant progress made in prison reforms across Sindh. He commended the efforts undertaken and emphasized the importance of ongoing initiatives in alignment with directives from the Supreme Court.

Officials said a presentation was also given to the meeting in which it was informed that a cell established as “IT, Policy and Oversight” is working for coordination with POCs. 22 Prison Oversight Committees have been notified for the period of one year, while newly notified Prison Oversight Committees have conducted two successful visits at 22 prisons across the province.

It was informed that the M&R Portfolio has been revised and increased from Rs500 million (FY 2022-23) to Rs1,000 million (FY 2023-24) buildings. ADP Schemes (Ongoing & New) for Special Repair & Maintenance for all prisons amounting to Rs1438.446 million have been reflected in the current FY (2023-24) including DP Malir (ADP-1529) and DP Shikarpur (ADP-1546). The funds for the 3rd quarter of M&R have been released and subsequent work is in progress.

Moreover, 500 acers of land identified at Dhabeji for the construction of a Prison Complex in Karachi (District Prisons for Karachi East, West, South, Central, Keamari and Korangi). The committee under the chairmanship of the additional chief secretary (home) has been formed for the said Prison Complex.

The procurement work has been initiated by the Project Management Unit (PMU) for the completion of the remaining work of new District Prison Thatta. However, the new Composite Schedule of Rates (CSR) is still to be approved by the competent authority, and as soon as the new CSR is approved, the work will be expedited.

The matter of suitable land identification for the construction of a High Security Prison for 1,000 prisoners in District Thatta is pending. The Land Utilization Department has submitted its opinion to submit the matter before the chief minister Sindh (Vide Letter. No.01-33-2020/RC/SO-VI dated 29-04-2024).

As for as construction of new district prisons is concerned, the proposal has been incorporated in ADP-2024-25 for the following nine districts -- Kashmore, Shahdadkot and Qambar, Umerkot, Tharparkar and Mithi (100 acres of land has been identified), Jamshoro, Tando Allahyar and Tando Muhmmad Khan, Matiari and Shujawal.

As per the directions of the Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court and the Wafaqi Mohtasib, the Sindh Prisons has arranged a video-trial facility in all prisons of Sindh. However, ADP schemes for a fully functional video trail facility for all prisoner have been sent in the Annual Development Programme formulation for the financial year 2024-25.

The meeting was also updated on prisoner education and vocational training. It was informed that a Training and Research Unit has been established at Inspectorate Level. The SPCS has signed an MoU for training with the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (STEVTA), National University of Emerging Sciences (FAST) Karachi, and Art Exhibition Center established at various prisons across Sindh.

The recruitment process of in-house doctors (medical officers) for Sindh Prisons is in final phase because the interview schedule has been issued by the SPSC. The health department deputed 24 medical officers at all prisons across the province.

The committee has been notified to address the issue of nental health under the chairmanship of Prof Dr Iqbal Afridi. Moreover, the Sindh Prisons with the collaboration the UNODC is starting HIV and Drug Treatment programme for juvenile prisoners. Furthermore, 6503 are under treatment out of whom 472 are mentally challenged.

The meeting was informed that M3 Solutions has conducted a feasibility study for the audio/video calling facility. ADP schemes of audio/video calling and video trial facility for following prisons have been sent in the Annual Development Program formulation for the financial year 2024-25: Central Prison Karachi, Central Prison Hyderabad, Central Prison MirpurKhas, Central Prison Sukkur, Central Prison Khairpur, Central Prison Larkana and District Prison Malir.