ISLAMABAD -  The federal ombudsman has proposed a committee, headed by a district and sessions judge, for every jail to bring about overall improvement in their condition.

In pursuance of the Supreme Court’s directives, Federal Ombudsman Salman Faruqui on Tuesday submitted a report of the “Prison Reform Committee” before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, which took up the suo moto case on the miserable condition of jails.

In the report, the federal ombudsman proposed that provincial governments should be directed to constitute and notify an oversight committee headed by a district and sessions judge for every jail. The committee should also include district heads of prisons, police and the local administration.

The chief justice praised the report. The report said that the oversight committee members will be authorised to inspect jails any time, without a prior notice, and will have an office within the jail premises.

Asma Jahangir, who appeared on behalf of the Prison Reform Committee, said that under-trial prisoners have no access to legal aid and in most cases, they were not even aware of the date when they have to appear before a court.

Jahangir also drew the attention of the bench towards overcrowding prisons and appealed that mentally challenged prisoners may be kept in rehabilitation centres rather than in jails. On the conclusion of the hearing, the federal ombudsman office expressed the resolve to continue with the efforts to bring about reforms in jails.

The report proposed that the Law and Justice Commission together with advocates general and provincial ombudsmen should review and submit proposals for significant expansion of probation/parole facilities to reduce pressure on accommodation facilities in jails. It says that 21,000 prisoners were on parole in Punjab alone.

It said that the provincial governments should build jails in every district headquarters and the federal govt in Islamabad.  “Every jail should have separate and independent portions for women and juvenile prisoners, with sleeping space for every prisoner with adequate toilet and hygiene facilities,” it said.

“Drug users and mentally insane prisoners should be kept outside the premises of the jail in drug clinics/homes for mentally retarded prisoners and provided medical treatment,” it said. “The kith and kin/family members of the prisoners, particularly women and children, in jails should have right to once a week visit to jails on pre-notified days.”

The report suggested that the provincial governments should ensure that there was a proper facility in visitor rooms of the jails including sufficient chairs, drinking water and toilet facilities. It said that the provincial governments should review and enhance the transportation and escort facilities for prisoners to the courts’ premises so that prisoners were produced on every date of hearing.

The provincial govts should provide basic facilities in “Bakshi Khanas” on the court premises where prisoners have to wait for hours.

It said that the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan should allocate every jail to a nearby university or a major educational institution for providing free education to the prisoners, particularly women and children, and impart skill training to them with the help of TEVTA and other skill training institutions.  Libraries should also be upgraded by the universities.  No fee should be charged from the prisoners intending to appear in examinations, it said.

“The provincial governments should computerise data of all accused as well as under-trial prisoners, particularly women and children, and update it on a daily basis, and ensure biometric verification by the NADRA.  This small investment on jails will help the district committees to monitor and ensure that prisoners are produced before the courts on due dates, and released when their jail term is complete,” the report says.

“The committee set up by the federal ombudsman under the chairmanship of Asma Jahangir is providing assistance to prisoners through philanthropists.

 Such committees may be encouraged by the prison administrations, and allowed to ensure that the assistance in kind or cash is personally delivered to prisoners by donors or committees.”

The case was adjourned till 2nd week of January, 2017.