Roadmap to Paradigm Shift in Punjab Prisons
(Recommendations of Task Force on Prisons)
The Task Force believes that the current challenge before the prison system is lack of action, and not proposals for reforms.
The interim recommendations are aimed at resolving some of the critical problems faced by the prison system on immediate basis, so as to instantly bring about positive changes, and build an enabling environment for the prompt and effective implementation of reforms on long term basis. These are not the final recommendations which would be finalized in the last week of July 2009. Meanwhile, if necessary, the Task Force may make additional interim recommendations.
The terms of reference of the Task Force provides for coordination which the Home department and the Prisons Department for the prompt implementation of any interim measures recommended by the Task Force.
The interim Recommendations identify the critical and immediate issues and provide a framework to address them. The Government should form a Steering Committee comprising Home Secretary, IG Prisons and Two (2) members of the Task Force to develop specific mechanisms for the implementation of the Interim Recommendations made herein.
Recommendation No. 1: Developing Leadership Equation and Better Prison Management
(A) Immediate filling of all vacant positions
The immediate challenge before the Government of the Punjab is to make the Prisons Department fully functional. Only a fully functional department can conceive and implement for reaching reforms.
There is acute deficiency of staff at all fields of administration, including leadership position such as DIG (Prisons), and some positions at AIG level, Director (Dev), currently, 67 positions of Assistant Superintendents and 871 positions of warders are also vacant. All of the aforesaid positions are sanctioned.
It is imperative to fill the vacant posts as per sanctioned strength, with competent and committed persons who could bring energy and fresh ideas into the administration and management of prison system.
The appointment of a full Director, Reclamation and probation Department on immediate basis is also imperative.
The presence of vacant positions in such a large number posts out that the prisons Department is in need of effective executive decision making at leadership level.
(B) Improving Intra Departmental Coordination and Responsiveness:
The coordination between the Home Department and Inspectorate of Prisons need to be enhanced to provide for prompt and effective decision making at all levels. The critical issues to be addressed at the jail level often remain unattended as the letters written by Superintendent of jails are seldom answered by the Inspectorate, the letters written by the Inspectorate, seldom receive a response from Home Department and the issues identified at the jail level, may that be of medical operation of a sick prisoner provision of diesel for generators on filling vacant positions are over locked.
The Government should take urgent steps to rectify this situation by balancing the distribution of powers between the Home Department and the Inspectorate of Prisons, and within the Inspectorate of Prisons, especially in respect of day to day management of the prisons system and disciplinary matters, with a view to enhance efficiency, transparency and accountability.
Over a period of time the powers of the Inspectorate of Prisons to take disciplinary actions against the prison staff have been considerably diluted, presently, the Inspector General could not take disciplinary action against any officer above the rank of Assistant Superintendent; similarly jail Superintendents have no authority to take disciplinary action against the staff under their supervision.
The Government should ensure coordination between the Home Department and the Inspectorate of Prison for swift and timely action to deal with the policy matters relating to the prisons system.
Recommendation No. 2: Service Reforms of Jail Staff
(A) Revising Pay Scales
The pay scales of prison staff should be revised on urgent basis bringing the same at par with the Punjab Police. However, the Government should develop well thought out package which ensures that raise in salaries results in the improved performance of the Prisons Department at all levels.
(B) Up-Gradation of Posts and Performance Appraisals / Discipline
The Prisons Department is increasingly missing out in attracting of retaining talented people, primarily for the reason that they are mostly recruited and retired in the same place opportunities for career progression are limited. The posts in the Prisons Department may be upgraded according to a suitable formula.
The Task Force notes with satisfaction that the Government has included prisons service in the Provincial Management Services cadre for the recruitment of Superintendent Jails, and recommends that a balanced formula should be evolved for the said recruitment. Furthermore the role of Punjab Public Service Commission in the appointment of suitable posts which are not covered by PMS be strengthened.
The recruitment policy should be fair and provide balance between direct recruitment and departmental promotions.
Prisons Foundation should be activated under an efficient and transparent management structure to develop well thought out framework exclusively for the help and welfare of the officers and staff of the Prisons Department.
Government should announce a generous package for the welfare and well being of the widows and minor children, if any, of the officers and staff of the Prisons who have been martyred in the line of their duty.
Recommendation No. 3: Quality Training of Prison staff and linking it with Career Progression
Well thought out and tailor made courses on prison management should be arranged on urgent basis for all jail Superintendents. This exercise should be held regularity at appropriate intervals.
Well thought out and tailor made orientation / awareness sessions about duties and role of Warders and Chief Warders should be held at all prisons on urgent basis. This exercise should be held regularly at appropriate intervals.
The existing capacity facilities and activities of the Punjab Prisons Staff Training Institute should be overhauled and developed. The Institution should be given resources to develop curriculum, syllabus, guidebooks and Courses etc. in lie with best prison administration practices. Furthermore, the institute should also be provided resources to compile information / data relating to the prison system and carry out research on different aspects of prison system with a view to play the role of a think tank and forum for consultation with other stakeholders including civil society.
The quality training of the entire prison staff should be regularly conducted and lined to their career progression. The incentives to the Prisons Staff should be made conditional to their successful completion of training and improved performance.
Recommendation No. 4: Over-Crowing – Alternatives
(A) Coordinate Efforts to Expedite Criminal Justice Process
The Government should development strategy to coordinate with other institutions of criminal justice system including the Police, Prosecution and judicially to expedite the criminal justice process, as out of current Punjab prisons population of about 60,000 inmates, approximately, 41,000 are under-trial prisoners.
(B) Revamping and Activation of Reclamation & Probation Department
Reclamation and probation Department established under the probation of offenders Ordinance, 1960, has been under utilized, and over a period of time drifted towards dormancy. This Department should be revamped, energized and fully utilized by filling vacant positions with competent and committed persons, improving pay scales and working environment and providing clear guidelines and leadership to achieve practical results.
No person has been appointed on full time basis the Director Probation and Proclamation for many years. It is important to fill the vacant position on immediate basis with a visionary ad energetic person who could turn around this department.
The monthly meetings of Case Committees established at district level under the probation of Offenders Rules, 1961 to be regularized on immediate basis.
(C) Legal Aid for Prisoners
A survey of the legal status of the prisoners in the Model jails (see Recommendation No. 7) through law students, NGOs and volunteers with basic training and clear guidelines about conducting surveys and interviews to be carried out in next four (4) weeks.
The Punjab Bar Council and District Bar Associations of the districts in which Model Jails are situated to be contacted on immediate basis and persuaded to mobilize their free legal aid committees or establish such committees.
Reputable NGOs active in providing free legal aid to the prisoners, especially in the model jails to be taken on board, and joint efforts be made to reduce over crowing in the said jails through appropriate Court interventions.
Prisoners Aid Society especially of the Model Jails to be mobilized for the provision of free legal aid to the prisoners.
Recommendation No. 5: Focus on Prisoners
Government should issue clear administrative instructions that without prejudice to the general duties and obligations of the Establishment, ensuring the following to all prisoners shall constitute the inviolable duties of the Superintendent for the non compliance of which s/he shall be held accountable.
Guaranteeing fair treatment and human dignity according to law
Provision of food and cold drinking water
Ensuring hygiene and sanitation facilities
Provision of medical facilities
Provision of basic amenities like light, fans and toilet facilities
Jail Superintendent may also be firmly directed to ensure efficient, transparent and visitor friendly process for meeting of relatives with prisoners.
The Government should set up PCOs in five (5) selected jails with appropriate back up facilities to mitigate any public security concerns on immediate basis. The results of this exercise should be evaluated in the context of the campaign against mobile phones used by the prisoners for communication from jail.
In collaboration with Social Welfare department, rehabilitation centers for prisoners who are drug addicts may be established.
Complaint Cell in the office of the Task Force should be made functional immediately.
Advertisements may be published, on urgent basis in leading Newspapers of Punjab announcing the establishment of the Complaint cell and asking public at large to send their suggestions, views and ideas on prison reforms to the Task Force.
Posters should be displayed prominently in all prisons asking the prisoners, prison staff and prison visitors to send suggestions and ideas for prison reforms to the task Force.
Recommendation No. 6: welfare, Reformation and Reintegration of Prisoners by Engaging Civil Society as Stakeholder
Non-Official Visitors for each of the 32 prisons to be appointed on merit, with clear guidelines for their expected role. They should be appointed with a view to engage them in the activities relating to the welfare, reformation and reintegration of the prisoners, as well as inspect the conditions of the prison and the prisoners. Non official visitors should be persons representing reputable NGOs, educational institutions, hospitals, and like organizations or of such background and eminence that the independence and impartiality of their views could not be influenced especially by the prison staff.
Women NOVs should be preferably appointed for Women jail and Borstal Institutions.
Task force members intend to visit all prisons of the Punjab to examine the current conditions of the prisons and the prisoners, and to consult the prisoners and prison staff on prison reforms. Therefore, all Members of Task Force who express interest in visiting the prisons be appointed non-official Visitors during the terms of the Task Force.
Recommendation No. 7: Establishing Model Jails
Following jails should be made Model jails within a period of next six (6) months.
Borstal Institution, Faisalabad
Women Jail, Multan
District Jail, Vehari
Recommendation No. 8: Lessons learned from Sialkot jail incident should be integrated in the Prison System
Lessons learned from the unfortunate incident at the District Jail Sialkot Should be integrated in the prison system, the letter and spirit.
Recommendation No. 9: Survey of Existing Jails
The Government should prepare a detailed report in respect of each jail, after conducting a thorough survey / assessment of the location, utilization of land and premises, recent development initiatives, modes of revenue generation, if any, infrastructure, facilities, security arrangements, peculiar needs and requirements, status and conditions of prisoners, practices for governance and day to day management, list of current Prison staff, sanctioned positions, and future plans.
Recommendation No. 10: Special Security Arrangements against Terrorist Threats
The Inspectorate of Prisons should immediately carry out an assessment of the present security arrangements of all the prisons in Punjab, and take all necessary actions to toward any untoward act of terrorism.