The prisons in our country have been haunted by a reputation for misuse and brutality; and when horrific incidents like the recent report of Attock jail come to the light, it is not hard to see why this perception exists. In one of the most extreme cases of police and authority brutality and misconduct, the Provincial Intelligence Centre (PIC) has accused some Attock district jail employees of raping and sexually harassing women visiting prisoners, and peddling drugs. The PIC field staff recommended an inquiry into the affairs of the district jail by a high-powered committee headed by an upright and honest officer in the rank of an additional secretary and also suggested that the jail staff found guilty of violating the jail manual or involved in torture, corruption, extortion and sexual harassment should be punished.

While the revelations are horrific, this is unfortunately not the first time we have heard of such misuse of power in prisons. Prison systems are inherently prone to corrupt practices due to the absolute power wardens and other officials have. This is not the first time these heinous practices have come to light. Just last month, a report came out that a torture cell was being run by two constables in tehsil Jarranwala, where police officers would allegedly regularly torture prisoners and detainees. We have seen several cases of corruption in prison, where some prisoners are given VIP treatment, while others are refused even the basic right of hospital treatment.

Prisons are a sore spot that everyone in society concedes is necessary, but no one wants to look at them. Prisoners have rights; if they are not granted human rights, then the reason behind prisons, deterrence, is made obsolete and society is left more dangerous. Likely, Attock jail is not the only prison that is similarly affected. An overhaul of the conditions of prisons and their rules is sorely needed.