Pakistani prisons

Developing a society requires more than introducing positive growth reforms and increasing demographic capacity or economic competence. For a society to thrive in development in letter and spirit, it is necessary for the individuals living in that society to develop themselves of the moral responsibility of being a responsible citizen. Immorality leads to criminality, which has always been an obstacle in the development of countries. Many states base their prison policies on the rate of repeat offenders; recidivism. Unfortunately, the recidivism rate in South Asian countries is worrisome and this has limited the development of South Asian countries.

According to the report generated by World Population Review, Pakistan ranked 5th among the list of countries with the highest rates of recidivism in 2020. The only reason behind this wretched series of events is that developing nations invest more in prisons than in prisoners. Development in prisons should be more focused on rehabilitating and reintegrating them so that the number of prisoners can be reduced each year, hence bringing down the levels of recidivism. However, due to a lack of focus on prisoners, overcrowding has become an issue in 120 countries, including Pakistan. Recidivism in Pakistan can be contributed to numerous factors let alone overcrowding.

7 out of 10 prisoners in Pakistan are found not guilty of charges, but due to the slow justice system, their cases take years to be decided- “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Overcrowded jails birth recidivism

Ineffective and inefficient rehabilitation and reintegration policies, slow processing of cases, poor infrastructure, lack of vocational training programs, absence of psycho-social readjustment programs, overcrowding, and indigenous laws are some of the main factors that have given birth to recidivism- the tendency to commit re-offense among prisoners after their release.

Moreover, overcrowded jails are a sinkhole to recidivism. In Pakistan, the Constitution and the Prisoner’s Manual ensure that every prisoner has a right to life, freedom to engage in education, health, and physical activities, and access to legal aid. Nevertheless, the recent data exposes the hideous conditions that prisoners are kept in: According to Justice Project Pakistan, the official capacity of 98 operational prisons in Pakistan is 53,744, but the current housing is around 84,287.

Read more: Vision 2030: Pakistan’s uphill battle

Mismanagement of prisoners and an updated justice system

In Pakistan, the treatment of prisoners falls short of prescribed guidelines provided by Standard Minimum Rules of the UN and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which ensure the rights and duties of prisoners. Moreover, the lack of effective and efficient domestic policies on prisoners has also hampered the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners. Each year billions of rupees are spent on prisons but due to corruption and nepotism in our justice system, higher officials usurp these figures.

Moreover, there is no updated justice system in Pakistan unlike Norway where the recidivism rate is the lowest in the world i-e; 20%. The reason behind this marvel is that Norway has focused on the model of “restorative justice,” which aims to repair and diminish the damage brought by crime rather than punish people.  Bob Cameron, a well-known criminologist has described five goals that are an epitome of good prison: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation. Reflecting upon these goals, it would not be wrong to conclude that in Pakistan, prisoners are punished first and then released only to be re-arrested again– nothing gained, a lot lost.

For a society to thrive in development in letter and spirit, it is necessary for the individuals living in that society to develop themselves of the moral responsibility of being a responsible citizen.

“Justice delayed is justice denied”

Prisons in Pakistan are not fulfilling the role of ‘correctional facilities’ and have very little focus on structural programs for the under-trail prisoners. Due to little focus on the vocational training programs for juveniles and adult prisoners, lack of skills cumbers the employment opportunities after release. Hence, most of the ex-prisoners, belonging to the lower class, re-offend to make ends meet after prison.

7 out of 10 prisoners in Pakistan are found not guilty of charges, but due to the slow justice system, their cases take years to be decided- “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Most of the innocent people become victims of drug abuse and criminality after spending time behind the bars due to the delayed justice process. Lack of adequate financial stability back at home forces these innocent inmates to fall prey to illegal and heinous dealings with other prisoners. Due to the systemic flaws, first-time offenders are often put with habitual criminals, hence making them more vulnerable to crime and illegal activities.

Read more: Op-ed: Pakistan needs to declare national emergency on the development of its youth

UNDP and UNODC shall be allowed so that rehabilitation and reintegration programs can also be included. Moreover, providing speedy justice and treatment of prisoners’ rights as human rights are essential to the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), and for that Pakistan shall take imperative steps to meet those goals.

Every individual has the right to survive imprisonment with dignity and hope. No one is born a criminal, therefore one can grow out of it and unlearn their criminality, provided they have the opportunity of being rehabilitated and reintegrated for the betterment of society.

The author is a student of Masters in Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology. Her stream of interest in Peace, Conflict and Development. She is a ghostwriter and this is her first contribution to our website. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

blank