KATHMANDU: A brawl broke out between the prisoners last to last Friday in Nakkhu prison. There were some issues of discontent during day time between two groups of prisoners which led to a brawl causing the death of a prisoner Purna Bahadur Raji.
Komal Kumar Mahato lifted a cement block and hit Purna Bahadur Raji with it. The incident like this continues to take place in prisons around the country. The government and other stakeholders directly related to the management of prisons across the country have been negligent in the area.
A prison which houses adult offenders and convicts of several crimes act as a reformatory institution as it attempts to transform offenders and convicts into productive citizens by teaching them vocational skills and instilling in them human values.
It does not mean prison has to be lax in administration and porous in security to allow the prisoners to flout the rules and escape from the confinement. However, a series of incidents such as brawls, escape of prisoners and killing of both security personnel and prisoners have raised a question mark on sincerity of prison administration and management.
At least 5 prisoners have been killed and 29 prisoners have died in scuffles between the two individuals or groups from 2010 till 2019 in the span of 8 years.
Who died when?
(Source: Nepal Police Head office)
In a district-wise profile, not less than 8 prisoners from Palpa were injured across all in scuffles within a prison, as the police record suggests. Similarly, prison wise analysis reveals that among the injured were 4 from Chitwan, 6 from Kaski, 5 each from Palpa and Dang.
Some major incidents of crimes within prison premises
Apart from above-recorded evidence, there are many numbers of unrecorded incidents relating to brawls between prisoners and escape from prison by duping the jail security.
Basu Dev Ghimire, Director at the Prison Management Department, accepts the increasing incidents of physical clashes and verbal altercations among the prisoners across the country. “Prisons are overcrowded and not much work in areas of mental and physical training by improving the space of living within a prison is taking place. This is why prisoners are not able to control and guide their behaviors as reformed human beings.”
Nepal Police spokesperson Bishwaraj Pokharel throws light on the security of prisons across all the five provinces of Nepal. Pokharel says that prisoners escape from the physical confinement even after tight security because the physical structure of many prisons across the country is in a poor condition; they are in a dilapidated state.
Overcrowding is another problem which poses challenges on police surveillance and security of the prison, Pokharel continues adding further that element of human lapses arising out of greed, threat and favoritism cannot be ruled out on part of police guarding the prisons.
However, those policemen who are found to be engaging in unfair and unethical practices leading to death, injury or escape of prisoners go through the codes of disciplinary inquiries imposed from the police department, warns Pokharel.
22,000 prisoners confined in a prison having the capacity to house 15,000
As per the record of Prison Management Department, the total capacity to house the prisoners is not more than 15,466 in numbers in all the prisons across the country. However, not less than 21,577 prisoners are locked in limited space of prisons across the country.
Furthermore, as high as 65 districts of Nepal house higher numbers of prisoners than their usual capacity except for other 12 remaining districts such as Sankhuasabha, Khotang, Ramechhap, Kabhrepalanchok, Rasuwa, Parsa, Palpa, Dailekh, Jumla, Achham, Baitadi, and Dadeldhura.
This space crunch in many numbers of prisons in Nepal has a telling effect on the physical; and psychological health of prisoners inhabiting there resulting in brawls and hot exchange of words.
How much capacity of different prisons to house prisoners across the country?
13 billion NPR drained in name of prisoners’ reform annually
At present, the government provides each prisoner with 700-gram rice together with Rs 60 every day. Besides, other necessary expenses for Dashain celebration, maternity relief, medicine and for maternity relief among others are paid to prisoners across the country.
Director of Prison Management Department and Prison Administration spokesperson, Basu Dev Ghimire says that the Government of Nepal spends Rs 5,000 on every prisoner in a month. From this account, if we add for all the prisoners 21,577 in numbers currently housed in different prisons across the country, the total expenditure will sum up to Rs 13 billion approximately.
Even expenditure of the extent of Rs 13 billion in a month on all the prisoners has not brought perceptible qualitative change in their behavior.
Nor has the quality of life within the prison has improved to keep them in best of physical and psychological health by training them to work in ranch, forestry, farm, cottage industry and also orienting them regarding how to deal with problems and challenges in family, society, and community to prepare them for social rehabilitation.
Crimes within the prison premises clearly prove that monthly expenses of Rs 13 billion and other programs launched by the government turned out to be no more effective in reducing recidivism. It is high time that the government needs to carry out in-depth research to come out with viable solutions on the issue plaguing the prisons across the country.