While digital transformation has caused massive disruption in the private sector, it has also greatly influenced the management of public affairs. The Punjab government’s excellent initiative of digitising prison records and digital monitoring of its prisons should be developed consistently in the months and years ahead, as part of a policy to reform the province’s prison system. Unfortunately, prisons in Punjab as well as the rest of Pakistan are not managed with an approach that values protection of human rights of prisoners. The law is specific in depriving prisoners their right to liberty by imprisoning them; they remain eligible to enjoy rest of their human rights.

There is also the misguided notion that imprisonment will somehow reform the individual and society’s ills can just be locked away and isolated. By now, there is considerable literature to prove that an approach which focuses on reintegration and character-building is far more beneficial for society. In countries like Pakistan, it is important to acknowledge the correlation between poverty and crime. It is also true that the justice system is most strict for the poor, who are often mistreated by law enforcement and cannot afford reasonable legal counsel. As it often happens, when the breadwinner of a poor family is sent behind bars, the loss of income affects the entire family. Dire circumstances present poor choices before affected families which land them in further trouble. Perhaps the state has a role to play here, in providing financial assistance to such vulnerable persons. By doing so, it can break the cycle of poverty and crime that affects generations.

Another point to be remembered is that imprisonment is quite a costly affair for everyone including the state itself. The upkeep of prisoners and maintenance of prisons and their staff is only the most obvious cost. Then there are hidden costs that are related to healthcare, social as well as economic impact. Pakistan can learn from the example of Scandinavian justice systems to introduce sustainable reform that will ultimately pay off in the long-term.