THE overcrowding of the jails with about 85,859 inmates, against a capacity of 36,664, as of Thursday, the highest since 2005 when the jails with the official capacity of 28,668 had 73,192 inmates, mainly because of the arrests made during the current nationwide drive against drug substances, points to a few worrying issues. The situation of the number of inmates being more than double the accommodation capacity, which had started happening in February before the Bangladesh Nationalist Party chair was jailed in a corruption case so that protests could be headed off, on top of everything else, suggests that the inmates, presumably quite a large number of them are mere suspects who are yet to undergo the trial, are not kept in a condition that respects human dignity. They may not have been looked after the way they should be or given the facilities that they are entitled to. A situation like this could constitute a breach of a kind of, or the limiting of, human rights of the prisoners. This also runs counter to an efficient justice delivery system as their cases could not be easily disposed of. While such an issue only adds to the huge backlog of cases waiting to be disposed of, putting an additional pressure on the justice delivery system, this also means that their right to legal redress is not effectively honoured.
Many of them, many of whom could be innocent, may have been imprisoned for weeks and months without having any access to legal recourse. As their cases are not disposed of, in the court of law, at the pace new inmates are getting into the jail and as many of them could be too poor to employ lawyers to fight for them, in the absence of a strong government mechanism to employ lawyers to look into their case as has been seen in the past, it lengthens the sufferings of the suspects or the arrested while their families continue to suffer. A situation like this ultimately has a spillover effect of the breach of the rights of the suspects and the arrested to access to legal redress and other issues as humans on the families, which together could constitute a few hundred thousands of people. The minister for home affairs has, however, sought to say that 15 per cent of the inmates in prisons are usually suspects in cases involving drug substances and the percentage has now reached 30 because of the drive against drug substances. But such a statement that the minister made on May 30 hardly makes any difference in the situation of rights abuse of the prisoners because the number of inmates is double the accommodation capacity.
The government has taken a move to list about 3,000 inmates doing their time for petty crimes for release. But this will also not make any difference in view of the huge number of inmates. What the government, under the situation, must do is to ensure the rights of the prisoners, both human and legal, while it must attend to case disposal procedure efficiently.
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