Nepal: prison infrastructure construction gains pace

The construction of buildings for the Central Jail in Nuwakot is picking pace, says the Ministry of Home Affairs. According to the MoHA annual report of fiscal 2019- 20, approximately 65 per cent work on construction of prison infrastructure has been completed. It informed that the construction work was expected to be completed by the end of the current fiscal.

The government had obtained 539 ropani land for the Central Jail. The prison facility, with capacity to house 7,000 prisoners, will have five blocks, including one for females. The MoHA said one of the blocks, with capacity for 1,500 persons has already been completed. The government had decided to relocate the present Central Jail of Sundhara, Kathmandu, to Nuwakot by developing state-of-the-art buildings as per a Cabinet meeting of 3 April 2014.

Similarly, 45 per cent of the construction of regional Prison in Naubasta, Banke has been completed. In yet another ambitious project, the construction of open prison in Ganapur of Banke is in the final phase, said the report. The government had acquired around 535 ropani land for construction of the open prison.

An open prison is a penal establishment where prisoners, who have served at least half of their jail term and have shown good conduct, are trusted to do their time with minimal supervision. It aims to ease the pressure of jailbirds in crowded prisons and to turn prisons into correction centres. The government has also been working on a draft of guidelines on open prison.

National and international rights bodies have long criticised the government’s poor handling of jailbirds. Increased crime rate has led to overcrowded prisons. The country has 74 prisons in 72 of the 77 districts. Prisons across the country with a total capacity of 16,000 persons are crammed with more than 25,000 jailbirds, says the released by the Department of Prison Management.

According to the National Human Rights Commission, jailbirds have been deprived of basic amenities and rights, including sanitation, room space, quality food and regular health checkup. Many existing prisons lack space for jailbirds to sleep conveniently. Jailbirds have not been given access to sports, entertainment materials and books for their education.