Senate committee on women for improving jail conditions

ISLAMABAD: _ The Senate Standing Committee on Women Development has called for urgent steps to improve conditions at the female ward of Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, which is presently housing 172 female prisoners against the total capacity of 80. The Senate Committee headed by its Chairperson Senator Tahira Latif undertook a visit to the jail here on Wednesday with a view to obtaining first hand knowledge of the prisoners lodged there, especially female and to suggest measures for improvement. The Senate body recommended that for overcoming the present overcrowding and congestion, construction of new women jail should be taken up on top priority basis, for which a piece of land measuring 87 acres has already been acquired. It urged the Punjab government to release the remaining amount of Rs 39,963,900 to the provincial Revenue Department for this purpose. Terming the present dietary charges i.e. Rs 20 daily (per each prisoner) being too meager be enhanced to at least Rs 100 per day immediately as many female prisoners are accompanied by young children. It further recommended that at least one full time medical specialist and one medical officer be provided for the women jail along with acquiring the services of a skin specialist to cope with growing number of patients with scabies and other diseases. It also urged the government to make the necessary arrangements for repatriation of all female prisoners back to their respective provinces, for completing the remaining term in the jails of their respective provinces. Responding to the complaints regarding manhandling/use of abusive language, thrashing etc, by some prisoners, the Senate body urged the government to arrange special 'behavioural training courses' for female jail wardens and superintendents in addition to acquiring the services of psychiatrist in order to bring about a permanent attitudinal change both in captors and the prisoners. The Senate Committee also called upon the affluent sections of the society to come forward for payment of petty sums of money due to many prisoners, as their release could not be secured due to non-payment of fines despite the fact that most of them have already completed their respective sentences. Earlier, the Superintendent of Central Jail, Rawalpindi, briefed the Senate Committee on the overall jail conditions with special reference to the plight of female prisoners. He informed that against an authorised accommodation of  1,994 prisoners, the present population of this jail is toughing close to 5,906, which is almost four times greater than the sanctioned strength. 'This overcrowding is the root cause of the prevailing problems', he said further adding, "present amount of funds being provided to us are barely adequate to look after such a large number". The issue of non-entitlement of any remission announced by the government from time to time to the women prisoners accused of murder, also figured during the visit. A number of such female prisoners urged the committee to review this policy as according to them it tantamount to discrimination. The committee took exception to the present practice of taking both male and female prisoners to Courts in the same van and directed the jail authorities to immediately discontinue it and arrange separate transport for females. Some members of the committee suggested surprise visits to jail premises and barracks in future to know the actual conditions prevailing there instead of planned visits ', which produce little or no results'. Besides the Chairperson of the committee, Senators Mrs Rukhsana Zuberi, Mrs Razina Alam Khan, Mrs Fauzia Fakhar-uz-Zaman, Dr Kausar Firdous, Mrs Sabina Rauf, Nawab Mohammad Ayaz Khan Jogezai and Saeed Ahmed Hashmi attended the visit.

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