LAHORE High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharifs bold statement that 50 percent of the inmates pining away in jails across the province are innocent is a trenchant and honest criticism of the countrys criminal justice system. The CJ is absolutely right. Our police with their notorious thana culture have earned a fearsome reputation for being a law unto themselves and throwing people behind bars in an illegal fashion. It is commonplace that individuals are arrested without warrants and jailed for indefinite periods of time. In the absence of any system of checks and balances, the police highhandedness goes totally unchecked. On the other side of the spectrum, corruption in the subordinate judiciary, coupled with the huge backlog of cases, must also get its share of the blame for the existing state of affairs as it forms part and parcel of the criminal justice system the CJ pointed a finger at. There is also a category of prisoners who have completed their terms but are forced to stay in jails because of non-payment of fines. Last but not least, there is a category of those innocent individuals who are awaiting trial but are in police custody over false charges. Hence, the stark reality that half the prisoners in the jails in the province are innocent. The CJs incisive analysis is a sad reflection on the state of dispensation of justice in Pakistan. It is a great shame that as much as 50 percent of the prisoners should have to languish in lock ups just because of corrupt practices of errant officials who are able to ride roughshod over peoples rights in broad daylight. Thankfully, the Chief Justice was blunt enough to highlight the need to set things right in the legal system as well. He rightly urged both the prison department and the lower judiciary to shun the culture of bribery. The government and the judiciary must by all means ensure the provision of cheap and speedy justice to the people and make arrangements to release the innocent prisoners.