KATHMANDU: In accordance with the Supreme Court (SC) order, the government has begun the reform process in jails to introduce various new rights to jailbirds. One of these new rights is the conjugal meeting of jailbirds, which is a new concept in our country. It also seems difficult to implement due to insufficient government resources. On April 16, 2011, the SC had directed the government and parliament to introduce conjugal rights to inmates to respect their reproductive rights.
A year after the order, a five-member jail reform taskforce formed by the government under the coordination of Lawmaker Devi Khadka suggested the government to bring about changes in the jails, without which further reformation would not be possible. As 14,000 inmates have been serving their sentences in jails with total capacity of only 7,000 inmates, reforms are not possible until major infra-structural shift takes place in the prison management system.
Interestingly, the jails in the capital and urban districts, including Central Jail and Dillibazar Jail are crowded beyond their limit. As these jails have comparatively more facilities, they have been concentrating on management of the inmates rather than introducing reform programmes.
The report which was handed over to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai by the taskforce last week emphasised on the need to introduce provision of concession for jailbirds with improved conducts. The report also recommended the intro-duction of community and open prison. Despite several attempts, the government has not been able to introduce such systems under which inmates can be deployed for work. This will definitely benefit inmates in monetary terms besides supporting law and order maintenance.
As per the recommendation, if inmates improve their behaviour, they can be kept on payroll. The report considers that one-time criminals should not be barred from government jobs as it may force them to return to criminal activities. However, inmates involved in trafficking, rape, jail escapade, evasion of custom duty, drug peddling, corruption, animal poaching as well as violations related to archaeology and spying are not entitled to such facilities. Introducing open prison system for a criminal who has already spent 50 per cent term in jail and keeping criminals engaged in various activities is not a new management idea, as it is already in practice in democratic countries.
“Protecting the rights of inmates is important in legal system, therefore the court ruling must be respected by government authorities,” Human Rights Lawyer Pawan Jaiswal told THT Perspectives. “Without reforming inmates, it will be impossible to maintain law and order in the country, so the government should prioritise their rights, including reproductive rights,” Jaiswal added.