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April 7, 2020

Sick, disabled prisoners need extra care to control COVID-19 in jails

National

April 7, 2020

Islamabad: Sick and disabled prisoners in crowded Pakistani jails required extra healthcare as they are more vulnerable to contracting the Coronavirus because of their weakened immune systems.

The factsheet released by Justice Project Pakistan on Monday says that Pakistan’s prison population consists of a considerable number of sick and disabled inmates with many having contagious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

These prisoners are not just more vulnerable to contracting the Coronavirus because of their weakened immune systems, but are also more likely to spread it across the prison population. There are 2,100 prisoners with physical ailments, 2,400 prisoners with contagious diseases like HIV, TB and hepatitis. Only in Punjab, there are 66 prisoners with disabilities. Prisoners with mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to being affected by health emergencies due to their compromised immune system and lack of existing medical facilities to fulfill their heightened health care needs and requirements. In Pakistani prisons, around 600 persons are identified having mental illness. The figures taken from government’s official data including the report prepared by a commission constituted by the Islamabad High Court and quarterly implementation reports by the Federal Ombudsman shows Pakistani prisoners are over-populated by nearly 34 per cent. The capacity of total 114 jails in Pakistan is 57,742 whereas number of prisoners is 77,275.

A vast majority of these prisoners, 48008 are under trail whereas 25,456 are convicted. There are 1184 women prisoners and 1500 elderly prisoners above the age of 60. According to IHC commission, there are 83 mothers with 90 children in various jails of Punjab. In KP, there are 37 mothers and 50 children. Highest number of women prisoners in Punjab 769, Sindh 214 and KP 201.

On the other hand, the health care facilities in Pakistani prisons are evident from the fact that there are 108 vacant posts of medical officers and 58 vacant posts for psychologists. In Punjab, 10 per cent prisons do not have ambulances. Elderly, children and sick people are more likely to contract diseases because of their weak immune systems. Elderly prisoners above the age of 60 are 807 in Punjab, 223 in Sindh, 447 in KP and 50 in Balochistan. Highest percentage of prisoners as compared to capacity is in Punjab that is 45 per cent, in Sindh it is 32.22 and 12.4 in KP.