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February 11, 2019

Sindh govt plans turning prisons into correctional facilities


February 11, 2019

KARACHI: Instead of treating prisons as buildings where the convicts are incarcerated in harsh surroundings as punishments for their crimes, the Sindh government has reimagined jails as correctional facilities where inmates are given the opportunity to undergo a reform process in a surrounding where their dignity and fundamental rights are protected, so that after the end of their terms, they may come out as productive and responsible citizens of society who have been disjointed from their criminal past.

The new vision of the provincial government regarding prisons has come to fore as a proposed legislation, titled ‘The Sindh Prisons and Correctional facilities Bill 2019’, which was introduced on February 7 at the Sindh Assembly during its current session. A select committee of the house having representation of both the treasury and opposition lawmakers was tasked with reviewing the bill and coming up with amendments to the draft bill within three weeks.

The draft bill says the purpose of the prison system is to contribute to the maintenance and protection of a just, peaceful, and safe society by confining all prisoners in safe custody whilst ensuring their fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution.

The bill also aims at transforming prisons into a useful component of societal system by assisting in the welfare and rehabilitation of prisoners and their reintegration in society as law-abiding citizens through reform programmes.

Once the proposed law is enacted, all the jail inmates will be required to participate in the reformation process and cooperate in the implementation of any correctional plan devised for them.

“An environment will be created in which prisoners will be able to live with dignity and develop the ability to lead a socially responsible and crime-free life and such treatment shall be available to all prisoners without discrimination,” reads the draft bill.

The proposed law states that all the prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.

The bill in question envisages establishment of correctional facilities at the prisons to inculcate self-respect and sense of responsibility in the prisoners. Regarding the availability of such facilities to the prisoners, the draft bill reads “there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, offence, colour, gender, language, belief, sect, political, or other opinion, national or ethnic origin, birth or other status.”

The proposed law also stipulates that a policy would be formed to govern the correctional facilities at the prisons. The policy would include rules for recruitment and training of relevant staff along with standards of work environment for them so that could exhibit high level of professionalism and dedication while discharging their duties.

The draft bill further envisages the establishment of an 11-member Prison Policy Board to be chaired by the Sindh prisons minister. Other members of the board would include the Sindh government secretaries for home, law, health, works and services, higher education, social welfare, women development, agriculture and information technology, while the IG prisons would act as the secretary of the board. In lieu of themselves, the aforementioned sectaries of various departments could also nominate an officer of a rank not below an additional secretary as member of the board.

The proposed functions of the policy board include the assessment of infrastructure needs of prisons and suggesting construction of new prisons and improvements in the existing ones. The policy board would also suggest innovations in the prisons through the use of information technology.

The Prison Policy Board would also develop a rehabilitation framework to cater to the educational, counselling, vocational, and technical training needs of the prisoners. It would further advise the government on policy matters relating to the management, development, and administration of the prisons.

The bill also proposes the establishment of a Prison Management Board comprising DIG prisons, two offices-in-charge of the prison service, an officer nominated by the Sindh High Court, a member from a relevant NGO, an officer of the home department nominated by the home secretary, and a retired bureaucrat, professor or judge.

The proposed management board would formulate mechanism and make recommendations for efficient and transparent management of the prisons. It would also suggest programmes for the rehabilitation and reintegration of the prisoners in order to facilitate them in resettling in their communities after their release.

The bill also calls for the home department to establish by a notification an oversight committee for each prison in the province for the prisoners’ welfare, philanthropic initiatives, rehabilitation programmes, monitoring of jail administration performance or other similar purposes.