Prisoners and detainees, including adults, children, sexual and gender minorities, senior citizens, and sick people should be kept separately in jails. However, this is not practiced in the country, said a recent report published by the National Human Rights Commission.

According to the rights body, those involved in serious and minor crimes, those whose cases have been decided, those who have been convicted and those who have been remanded to judicial custody for trial are all kept in the same place.

Necessary and regular examinations have not been conducted. In some cases, lives have been lost due to unfulfilled posts of health workers, lack of medicines and inadequate budget for medical treatment in the prisons. There is shortage of health-related staffers as the positions of health workers are vacant. Another irony is that the prisoners and inmates are forced to stay in the prison with 700 grams of rice and Rs 60 only on a daily basis.

Prisoners have been deprived of rights provided by the law due to ignorance of the staff about the legal system and lack of timely information about the court decision, the NHRC warned.

As per the existing Prison Act, men and women should be kept in separate houses as far as possible and if that is not possible, they should be kept in different parts of the house so that they cannot meet or talk to each other.

While there is a provision of keeping detainees and prisoners in the same jail, detainees and prisoners under 21 years of age and prisoners or detainees above 21 years of age should be segregated as far as possible. Similarly, prisoners of civil and criminal cases, sick detainees or prisoners, and detainees or prisoners with mental health problems should be kept in separate rooms and prisoners convicted in criminal cases should be kept in separate rooms. However, these provisions are limited to paper only. A monitoring recently conducted by the NHRC found that most of the problems pointed out in the past in prisons and police custody still exist.

In addition to the central prison, the NHRC monitored the prisons and police custody in various districts. The district prison in Taplejung has a capacity to accommodate 25 inmates but holds 140 inmates. There are 91 inmates in Lamjung Prison that has capacity to accommodate only 35 inmates. There are 1,200 women prisoners in one bloc of the Central Jail, Sundhara. According to the NHRC, these are representative facts of the sorry state of prisons. The state of physical infrastructure of many prisons is appalling.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 3, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.