Prisons’ sorry state appals home minister

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu

Mar 21, 2018-

Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa has expressed his concern at the appalling conditions in which prisoners are languishing in the country.

After visiting the Sundhara-based Central Jail and the Dillibazaar Prison on Tuesday, Thapa said prison is not a place for torturing convicts.

“Indeed, it’s a place that gives prisoners time to reflect on their deeds and acts as a correctional centre. In this regard, we have utterly failed to develop our facilities.

“I’m really concerned that the physical infrastructure and the living conditions are really dismal,” Thapa remarked after the visits. He found the facilities crammed with inmates.

The ministerial team found small sleeping rooms used by more than seven inmates. Sanitation measures were inadequate. While the kitchen was messy, the prisons lacked open spaces. Minister Thapa is said to have promised to act to improve the state of prison affairs.

Experts, however, said such concerns of officials are not new and that the home minister’s promise to upgrade the facility might not be kept.

Former Additional Inspector General of Police Bigyan Raj Sharma termed the prison mismanagement as “state-sponsored torture”. “A majority of politicians have spent some of their time in jail. Yet, very few of them are working on their improvement,” said Sharma.

“High-rise apartments surrounding the Central Jail also pose a serious security threat as the people can easily see what is going on inside the prison from these buildings. The lack of space means prisoners are getting in touch with others frequently. This contamination too might result in crimes.”

The government has an old plan of relocating the Central Jail to Bidur, the Nuwakot district headquarters.

A Cabinet meeting on April 3, 2014 endorsed the plan of the Department of Prison Management (DoPM) to shift the jail. The government plans to establish a prison facility on 533 ropani land to accommodate 5,500 inmates. The department has plans also to transfer inmates from the Dillibazaar prison to Bidur.

The government has conducted a feasibility study for constructing eight blocks for male and one for female prisoners. Each block will accommodate at least 600 prisoners. The jail will have its own hospital, a small industry and security barrages. People charged with serious crimes will have separate cells.

“First-phase construction including fencing and wiring has been over. A facility is under construction to fit in 1,500 prisoners,” said Krishna Prasad Acharya, the DoPM director. It would take two more years to transfer prisoners to the new jail outside Kathmandu.

There is growing concern over the infrastructure and security situation at the Central Jail. Built in 1914 on 42 ropanis, the meant jail for 1,200 inmates has been sheltering around 2,400 prisoners. Even inmates were reported dead during the 2015 

earthquakes. Across the country, there are more than 19,000 prisoners, 1,400 of them female, stationed in 74 facilities. Bhaktapur, Bara and Dhanusha districts have no prisons.

Published: 21-03-2018 07:25

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