ISLAMABAD - The number of under-trial prison­ers in the country far exceeds than that of convicted prisoners indicat­ing “sluggishness of Pakistan’s judi­cial system along with failure of the other departments of the criminal justice system-the police, the pros­ecution and the defence lawyering.”

This has been stated in the 69-page first ever report of the Prime Minister’s Prisoners’ Aid Commit­tee (PPAC) that suggests prisons re­forms package besides giving an in­sight into bad conditions of total 102 prison facilities of the country.

The report says that present pris­on population in the country is 77,282 prisoners and out of these, 48,347 are under-trial prisoners (UTPs) versus 24,771 convicts. This means that over 65 percent of the prison population in Pakistan com­prises of UTPs.

The prisons in the end remain overcrowded and this leads to cha­os, misery, inhumane living condi­tions, crimes and ultimately makes the prisons a place which hardens and generates criminals, it adds.

The total prisoners include 186 resident children who are innocent victims incarcerated with their im­prisoned mothers. These prisoners are accommodated in 102 prison fa­cilities spread across Pakistan which collectively have an estimated au­thorized capacity of 56,634. This in­dicates an overall occupancy rate of 136 percent, says the report.

Out of total 77,282 prisoners, 48,347 are under-trial prisoners, while 24,771 are convicts

Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted the high-powered PPAC to examine the prevailing conditions of prisons in Pakistan with the objec­tive of providing actionable reform measures and recommendations for immediate and special assistance.

This is the first report of the PPAC which has identified serious issues requiring prison reforms and sug­gested immediate steps while fur­ther information is still being col­lected and assessments are being made which will formulate the ba­sis of the detailed final report, says the note of the PPAC chairman in the report that is available with The Na­tion.

The PM has approved the imple­mentation of the suggestions given by the PPAC as prison reforms pack­age and the process will be moni­tored by the Prime Minister’s Secre­tariat.

The PPAC suggests that each prov­ince should form a legal aid authori­ty or structure, by whatsoever name called, which must be autonomous and free from control of the bar.

The legal aid authorities and com­missions should prioritize prisoners in overcrowded prisons along with vulnerable segments such as women and children, set up a panel of law­yers and ensure that they are given access to such lawyers.

In order to reduce under trial pris­oners, bail provisions need to be amended to allow under trial pris­oners in cases carrying less than 3 years imprisonment to be released easily, says the PPAC report. It adds that PPAC may be authorized to pro­pose amendments in the law to be considered by all provinces and im­plemented.

A mechanism needs to be devised to tackle the issues pertaining to the grant of bail in both, bailable and non-bailable cases, especially in cas­es where persons incarcerated are not aware of their eligibility, cannot afford a legal counsel or cannot fur­nish sureties.

The relevant legal framework gov­erning the grant of bail in these cas­es needs to be revised so that a vis­iting judge may release those who cannot furnish sureties on personal bonds, PPAC recommends.

The PPAC through data obtained by a commissioned survey got to know that there are 97 prisoners in Punjab, 58 in KP, 33 in Sindh, and six in Balochistan who have been iden­tified as being implicated in petty of­fences yet are languishing in prisons due to want of fines. “It is the obli­gation of the State to make provision for payment of fines or payments…who deserve to be released but are unable to pay.”

The report points out that as a result of overcrowding in prisons, the living conditions of the inmates (under-trial and convicted) “are and will continue to remain inhu­mane.”

The report identifies that the basic living standards in prisons are pa­thetic and inhumane. “Most prison­ers do not even have basic items like bedding or hygiene products provid­ed by the State.

The condition of toilets is intoler­able in most adult prison facilities. The condition of kitchens in most prisons, to say the least, is unhygien­ic.”

It further says that unfortunately, water being supplied to most pris­oners is contaminated, leading to diseases and illness.

It recommends that federal and provincial governments should allo­cated allocate budget for provision of furniture and water treatment plants, and improvement of toilets and kitchens.

The PPAC says that presently al­most all provinces lack a well-de­veloped security ranking system whereby prisoners are carefully screened and assessed and award­ed with rankings such as high risk, low risk or medium risk. As a result, since there is no developed system for classification based on securi­ty risk, ad-hoc determinations are made when identifying high value targets and segregating them from others.

It suggests that all prisons must have CCTVs deployed which are monitored through integrated hubs at the divisional ranges. Body scan­ners should be deployed and func­tional at all major prisons which can detect internally concealed contra­band and other items. Drug detec­tion dogs can also be piloted and uti­lized to detect substances concealed in items or on persons. Improving Medical Facilities:

The report says that it has been found that there is a dire need for provision of medical equipment in prisons all over Pakistan.

“More than 50 per cent of the pris­ons are without medical supplies and equipment. Most prisons do not have medical specialists.”

There are few doctors for wom­en and children and nothing for per­sons with special disabilities, it says adding that as an immediate sugges­tion, medical equipment with medi­cines should to be given.