PESHAWAR: There are 8,211 inmates – men and women – incarcerated in prisons and lockups across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) whereas, at maximum capacity, these institutions can just about accommodate 7,596 inmates. With two major prison breaks in the last two years, it seems the government has few actionable plans to reduce overcrowding – something which considerably detracts from a safe-house’s security level.
A vast majority of these inmates are currently on trial, colloquially referred to as hawalati; their number stands at 5,100. There are 2,922 are convicted prisoners, excluding those on death row
The province is host to altogether 22 prisons; this includes four central jails, 10 district jails, four sub-jails and four judicial lockups. The four central jails in Haripur, Bannu, Peshawar and DI Khan account for over half of the body of inmates in K-P – 4,984.
Haripur Central Jail currently houses 1,971; the largest number of prisoners. This is followed by Peshawar Central Jail with 1,702 prisoners, Bannu Central Jail, 802 and 509 inmates at DI Khan Central Jail.
The most overcrowded prison is Peshawar Central Jail. It is authorised to accommodate 450 people. That amounts to 1,252 extra bodies to house, feed, cloth, monitor and keep healthy. Considering it is the heart of the province, Peshawar Central Jail is often the prison of choice for detainees and their families. It allows easy access.
DI Khan Central Jail is the only under populated facility. The building can accommodate 1,506 people but it currently house only 509 prisoners. The one in Haripur is over its official capacity by at least 374 inmates.
On death row
Around 189 people have been handed down capital punishment by the courts, all men. There are 136 in Haripur Central Jail followed by eight in Peshawar and 17 in DI Khan central jails. Timergara District Jail houses 17 prisoners on death row.
For the past several years, a plan has been in the works to demolish Peshawar Central Jail and construct a larger facility in its stead. No progress, however, has been made, other than an architectural model of the said jail.
A decision has also been made to construct another central jail in Mardan to incarcerate militants but the idea is yet to go beyond the drawing board.
Talking to The Express Tribune, a jail official in Peshawar said the main jail in the city is inevitably overpopulated. Prisoners would rather stay in the provincial capital than a jail far from where their families reside.
There is no concept of prisoner welfare in any jail in the province, complained the official.
“In 2000, the building which housed the handicraft factory burnt to the ground in Peshawar Central Jail; to date no one has bothered to rebuild it.”
Previously, handicrafts manufactured in the factory were sold in the market. “The prisoners were not being paid for their services but it kept them busy and provided them with an opportunity to learn a particular skill like carpet weaving,” said the jail official.
He pointed out in Sialkot most prisoners were engaged in manufacturing of sports goods and were even paid minimum wages.
“There are banks inside the prison where inmates can open an account and deposit their earnings.” He argued this was equally beneficial for prisoners as well as industrialists because prison is a cheap source of labour. “We should follow their example but it is not possible until the K-P government takes a decision.”
“There is a workshop for carpet weaving in Haripur but is hardly functional,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2013.