The Himalayan Times, December 15, 2016
The government has increased housing capacity of prisons to 15,466 from 11,300 under infrastructure development programme.
According to a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, newly constructed infrastructure had provided space for 4,166 more jailbirds over a period of one year. With the increase in holding capacity of prison houses, the government expects to tackle the rising number of prisoners and other inmates serving immediate custodial sentence. The MoHA said construction of a prison building with the capacity of 300 jailbirds would be completed within current fiscal.
Despite increase in housing capacity of prisons, 74 jails with a total capacity of just 15,466 persons have been crammed with at least 23,775 inmates, including 1,269 foreigners, as of mid-November.
“The government will soon start construction of a prison house with capacity for 300 inmates. Prison houses are also under construction in Sarlahi, Sindhuli, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Palpa, Manang, Mugu, Dolpa, Surkhet and Jajarkot. We hope that the problem of overcrowded prisons will be solved within a few years,” the report read.
The process of relocating the Central Jail to Nuwakot is also picking pace, of late. The government has already obtained 539 ropani land for the Central Jail. The prison facility, with capacity to house 7,000 prisoners, will have five blocks, including one for females. The MoHA said one of the blocks with capacity of 1,500 persons would be completed by mid-July next year.
“The government is doing groundwork to implement the concept of open prison. Administrative and infrastructure work have been initiated for this purpose,” the report stated. An open prison is a penal establishment where prisoners, who have served at least half of their jail term and have demonstrated good conduct, are trusted to do their time with minimal supervision. It aims to ease the pressure of jailbirds in crowded prisons and to turn prisons into correction centres.
According to the Department of Prison Management, it has been working on a draft of guidelines on open prison, which will be submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs for approval.
National and international rights bodies have long criticised the government’s poor handling of jailbirds. Increased crime rate has led to overcrowded prisons. The country has 74 prisons in 72 of 77 districts. According to the National Human Rights Commission, jailbirds have been deprived of basic amenities and rights, including sanitation, room space, quality food and regular health check-up.
Many prisons lack space for jailbirds to sleep conveniently. Jailbirds have not been given access to sports, entertainment materials and books for their education.