Overcrowding of prisons strains budgetary funds

Anti-drug drive pushes up number of inmates

Jubair Hasan | Published: June 23, 2018 09:50:35 | Updated: June 23, 2018 14:59:56

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The jail authorities are facing hardship to accommodate an increasing number of inmates, placing strains on its limited budget, officials said.

This leads to financial constraints, while making it difficult for the agency to provide healthcare, and sanitation and administrative support.

Sources said most of the jails across the country usually remain overcrowded with under-trial prisoners and convicts.

But the wholesale arrests of people during the ongoing anti-narcotics crackdown have compounded the problems facing the jail authorities, they said.

They, however, hailed the enhanced allocation for the prisons directorate in the proposed national budget for the fiscal year (FY), 2018-19.

Given the overall situation prevailing in prisons, the actual expenditure would overshoot the proposed allocations, sources said.

The government has proposed an operating fund of Tk 8.44 billion-a 13 per cent raise from the last budgetary allocation.

In the outgoing fiscal, the original allocation was increased by Tk 770 million to meet the growing expenditure.

The country has 69 jails with the capacity hosting 36,614 inmates.

But the number of prisoners is 85,384 as of June 13, according to official statistics.

Of them, over 95 per cent are male and 75 per cent are under trial.

According to the jail code, each prisoner is entitled to get 36 square feet as living space in a jail.

But in many cases three inmates are accommodated in the same space because of the growing number of prisoners.

Inspector General (Prisons) Syed Iftekhar Uddin acknowledged a rapid rise in the number of inmates.

Congestion in prison cells causes manifold problems for them, he told the FE.

Mr Iftekhar Uddin, however, hailed the proposal for an increased fiscal allocation in the next fiscal.

This higher allocation might not be enough if the current trend in the prison inflow continues, he said.

Whenever prisoners far outnumber the capacity of jails with such limited manpower and resources, the scope for malpractices is created, he noted.

"We're putting our best efforts to manage the situation," the IG said.

The manpower in prisons remains the same as it was in the 1980s, although many jails have expanded eight to 10 times over the years.

Gazipur prison has been extended to six acres from 0.8 acre, Narayanganj 12 acres from 1.92 acres, Netrakona 10 acres from 1.59 acres and Gopalganj 7.5 acres from 1.1 acres.

"Only 7,000 prison staff members are working round-the-clock to manage such a huge number of inmates. It's not an easy task at all," Mr Iftekhar Uddin said.

Seeking anonymity, a senior official said the number of inmates in Keraniganj jail has already exceeded its capacity.

"The ongoing anti-narcotics drive has put huge pressure on the jails," he told this correspondent.

According to the prison department, two types of diet are provided for jail inmates.

Ordinary prisoners receive food per day, having 2,800 to 3,000 calories in terms of nutrition.

This is considered satisfactory by the Institute of Public Health and Nutrition.

On the other hand, the dietary allocation for 'classified' prisoners is higher than that, the official added.

The prison officials, however, trashed the allegation that low-standard food is served in jails.

The authorities strictly maintain the quality of food to help avert any health hazards, he added.

With limited resources, they are putting maximum efforts to overcome the situation.

The prison directorate has 10 physicians against the demand for 68 doctors.

It takes the help of district civil surgeons during emergencies.


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