Rehabilitation done right

December 24, 2023

An inclusive programme aimed at offering vocational training to prisoners

Rehabilitation done right


fter passing several security barriers and body searches, security personnel stamped my palm. The stamp is jail protocol and a temporary pass rolled into one. It conferred on me permission to enter the Peshawar Central Jail, one of the oldest prison complexes in the province.

Inside, everyone including the cops, cleaners and prison officials, was in a rush. One of the officials took charge and led us into a huge complex within the prison facility. This place was cleaner and different from the rest of the building. There was a large banner on the wall with the words Peshawar Jail Small Industries emblazoned on it. Inside the hall there were several groups of men.

Rehabilitation done right

The visitors were told that under the initiative called Prisoner Welfare Programme several small industries had been set up at the prison. Launched by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Prisons, the programme provides prisoners an opportunity to learn various skills while serving their sentences.

Before the formal briefing, the footwear section caught my eye. Here the men were calm and busy stitching the famous Peshawari chappal. A few pairs were on display. Wajid Ali Khan, an instructor, was teaching these men how to cut the soles and stitch the shoes.

Khan told The News on Sunday that 15 prisoners were learning how to make shoes under his supervision. “Here, the prisoners are learning fitting, stitching and different designs of Peshawari chappal. After they finish this course, they will be able to earn between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 a day. With a little investment, they can go on and set up their shops once they’re out,” said Wajid.

Next to the shoe-making station, there was the footwear embroidery section. A slate frame was laid out horizontally in front of prisoners engrossed in their work. An elderly man with a henna-dyed beard sat next to four young men. Their fingers moved deftly as they embroidered. Next to them was a frame displaying the finished product; brightly coloured cloth with many motifs embroidered on it. We were told these men had reached an advanced level of training.

The next corner was dedicated to leatherwork. Here, the instructor was delivering lessons to the prisoners who had recently joined the cohort. They were attentively listening to the instructions. A few men were busy practicing their assignment and cutting pieces of paper. After getting basic skills they would be ready to work with leather.

A middle-aged prisoner with a pink pencil behind his ear worked intently in the group. He introduced himself as Hanif Gul. “I’m learning how to make wallets. Leather work is profitable. After I serve my sentence, I plan on setting up a wallet shop in my hometown,” he said. A dozen male wallets of different sizes and colours prepared by the prisoners were displayed in this section.

There was also an art gallery inside the hall. An art instructor was teaching the basics of painting to the prisoners who were selected because they were good with the brush and pencil. The paintings produced during the sessions were displayed on walls. A few unfinished paintings were on the easel stands.

We were told that the Prisoner Welfare Programme had been extended to female prisoners who received their vocational training in a separate section. Under the programme, women were learning the basics of tailoring on sewing machines allotted to them.

Prison Small Industries was established to rehabilitate prisoners and assist them in becoming productive citizens by offering them opportunities for self-improvement.

Prison is a place where no one can live the way they choose. Living in isolation is not easy. Inside the prison walls, prisoners often suffer from depression and other psychological issues. Providing them with vocational training and giving them hope can help alleviate their depression.

Farjad Khan, an assistant superintendent, said that life was different inside a prison. “We have a clear stance on hating the crime, not the criminal,” said Khan. “The programme is promising but not without its challenges. Convincing prisoners to enroll in the programme is quite a task,” he added.

“The Prison Small Industries is affiliated with the Board of Technical Education. Those who complete the short course and pass the examination are provided a diploma,” said Farjad Khan.

“First, we identify prisoners for enrollment. We give priority to those who have already some basic talent and are keen to learn new skills. We don’t entertain under-trial prisoners in the courses,” he said.

“At least 200 prisoners are learning new skills. We hope to train 1,000 in the coming months. To encourage them we are planning to give them a share in the profit,” said Khan.

The writer is a freelance multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney

Rehabilitation done right