IT is commonplace to see inmates in Pakistan serving extra-terms despite having completed their imprisonments merely because of non-payment of monetary fine. According to a report published in Nawa-i-Waqt a prisoner was kept behind bars for 50 years over his failure to pay Rs 20,000 in fine. Shocked by his story, a lawyer paid the sum and secured his release. The case of this poor man rotting away in jail for half a century is just the tip of the iceberg and clearly indicates the weaknesses prevailing in our judicial system. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has freed 36 prisoners languishing in Adiala jail after paying their fine earlier this year. This is surely a welcome step but indeed a lot more needs to be done to reform our legal system. According to a report hundreds of inmates are still pining away in jails around the country who should have been out but it is a pity that their inability to pay the compensation money is keeping them in. There is also need to ensure the provision of better facilities to the inmates. Separate lock-ups for women and juvenile offenders, reining in errant jail authorities, providing health and recreation facilities, eliminating overcrowded conditions, setting up libraries, permission to sit for exams are just some of the things that could go a long way in the reformation of jails. There is urgent need to address the problem. In the NWFP, the issue needs to be taken up on a priority basis as the number of convicts serving extra sentence over their failure to pay the fine is quite large. The people's pleas to do something about the system changing it with something more effective seem to be falling on deaf ears. On the one hand, access to justice is beyond the reach of the common man and, on the other, it takes too much time (4 years at an average) for a case to be resolved. The government should ensure that dispensation of inexpensive and speedy justice is made available to all and sundry.