Our prisons, like many other aspects of life, are in dire need of fundamental reform. While justice demands that criminals receive punishment as per the law, the current reality often falls short of this ideal.
The deplorable conditions in which criminals and the accused are held serve as an unjust addition to their actual punishment. Hence, the Punjab government’s initiation of prison reforms is a much-needed step in the right direction. One significant decision in this regard is the introduction of telephone communication with their families for the first time in history. Previously, denying prisoners the right to talk to their families on the phone not only violated the human rights of the prisoners but also caused distress to their loved ones. This policy needed to be abolished.
The government has rightfully recognised the plight of prisoners convicted under the Explosive Act of 1908 and granted them this privilege. Additionally, the installation of PCO (Public Call Office) booths in the barracks of women and juvenile prisoners, along with those on death row, is commendable.
As part of ongoing prison reforms in Punjab, the duration of conversations with relatives has been extended from 20 to 40 minutes, and prisoners can now enjoy 180 minutes of talk time per month. Moreover, the approval to install 300 more telephone booths, specifically in the barracks of death row prisoners, women, and juvenile inmates, will facilitate better communication.
Prison reforms are not only necessary for Punjab but also for the entire country. It is imperative for the central and provincial governments to collaborate and compile a comprehensive report covering all aspects of prison reform, followed by the implementation of the necessary measures.