Nearly 500 Prisoners in Pakistan Have Been Diagnosed with Coronavirus

It was recently revealed by the Federal Ombudsman that prisons across Pakistan have at least 20,000 excess inmates than the overall capacity. It was further announced that 500 prisoners in total were infected by the novel coronavirus. 

The Secretary Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat (WMS) has just submitted to the Supreme Court, its eighth implementation report. In it, the WMS talks about the plight of inmates in imprisonment, as per the outlines provided by the apex report, which requires the submission of a progress report after every three months. In addition, nine recommendations are also compulsory to help improve the current jail conditions for the prisoners and staff alike. 

The report revealed that the highest number of prisoners who have contracted the coronavirus, belong to the prisons in Sindh. This number is 291, followed by 126 in the prisons of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). In addition, there are three patients in the prisons in Punjab and a total of 80 prisoners tested positive in Balochistan. 

In addition to talking about the number of inmates who have contracted the coronavirus, the report also talked about how the prisons in Punjab, Sindh, and K-P are overcrowded. 

It stated that 52,303 inmates were living in 43 prisons all over Punjab. The capacity of these prisons all together is 38,806 in total. Similarly, there are currently 18,098 prisoners in Sindh prisons, however, the capacity is 13,538. K-P prisons have space to hold only 11,362 prisoners but, house 12,209 inmates as of now. 

The report further revealed that due to the inadequate capacity of the prisons in the three provinces, steps have been taken to ensure that some inmates are released on parole. Meanwhile, three new jails are being constructed in the province of Sindh. One is located in Shaheed Benazirabad, the other two in Thatta and Malir. 

Along with this, expansion work has taken off for several prisons located in Punjab whereas, new jails are also being established there. The report informed that prisons are also being constructed in Hangu and Swat in K-P. Furthermore, a model prison is also being developed in the capital city of the country. 

The report went on to talk about finances allotted to the prisons. Sindh previously allocated an increase of Rs.294 million to its prisons, whereas Punjab increased the budget for its prisons by 33%. These steps were taken to improve the conditions of the jails. 

Along with the increase in budget, decisions were also taken to ensure that free legal aid is provided to the inmates residing in these jails. 

As per the requirement, the report also gave a couple of suggestions. It stated that the provincial government should see to the construction of a jail in each district headquarter in respective provinces. Similarly, the federal government should focus on construction in Islamabad. 

Another suggestion given stated that women and juvenile prisoners should have an independent and separate portion, and each prisoner should be given a sleeping space, as well as adequate hygiene and toilet facilities.