Parliamentary panel to monitor prisons across country

Naikes mete out physical and mental torture on inmates and detainees 

Kathmandu, February 29

The Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee of the House of Representatives has decided to monitor prisons in all seven provinces.

According to the parliamentary panel, its members will visit prisons to take stock of the condition of physical infrastructure and human rights of inmates and detainees.

Speaking at a meeting held in Singha Durbar yesterday, Chairperson of the committee Krishna Bhakta Pokharel informed that the panel was preparing to depute separate monitoring teams to the provinces.

“The teams will carry out monitoring of two district prisons in each province,” he said. The districts include Morang, Ilam, Mahottari, Kaski, Baglung, Rupandehi, Dang, Surkhet, Mugu, Kailali, Dadeldhura, Chitwan and Kathmandu.

Pokharel said that the house panel had received complaints about the poor living condition of inmates and detainees, lack of proper medical care and legal aid and below minimum acceptable facilities.

“We are informed that overcrowding, human rights violations and growing number of vulnerable inmates or detainees are the major problems likely to invite crisis situation in prisons.

Some prisons have jailbirds four times their capacity.

Therefore, the teams will prepare a report after monitoring the prisons and submit it to the government with recommendations,” he said.

Committee member Matrika Prasad Yadav warned that the prisons were turning into a breeding ground for criminals due to poor human rights situation.

“The government is never tired of talking about its plan to transform the prisons into correction centres, but in vain. The overall condition of prisons is deteriorating with each passing day. No reform has been introduced in the prison system. Naikes (leader of prisoners) mete out physical and mental torture on inmates and detainees. There is no democracy in prison. A naike should be elected through voting to end this culture,” he suggested.

Even the existing Prison Act envisions a provision of transforming the jails into correction centres through various reforms.

A total 74 jails with a total capacity of just 15,466 persons have been crammed with around 24,000 inmates and detainees, according to the Department of Prison Management.

Despite the tall claims of the government regarding implementation of the concept of open prison, no progress has been made to that end.

An open prison is a penal establishment where prisoners, who have served at least half of their jail term and have demonstrated good conduct, are trusted to do their time with minimal supervision. It aims to ease the pressure of jailbirds in crowded prisons and to turn prisons into correction centres.

A recent report published by the National Human Rights Commission says that jailbirds are deprived of basic amenities and human rights, including sanitation, room space, quality food and regular health check-ups. Many prisons lack space for jailbirds to sleep conveniently. Jailbirds have also been deprived of sports and entertainment materials, skill training and adequate textbooks for formal education.

Similarly, as many as 54 prison buildings in Kathmandu valley and other districts were either destroyed or damaged in the 2015 earthquakes and its subsequent aftershocks.

Many of them are yet to be reconstructed.