89,000 accommodated against 42,000 capacity
Staff Correspondent: The date of the election has been fixedon January 7, 2024. In the meantime, the Election Commission has started making all kinds of preparations. However, at the last minute, the ruling party Awami League thought of going to the polls, but the opposition still wavered. They are still protesting on the streets demanding the resignation of the government. However, most of the leaders and activists of main opposition party, BNP, are now in prison.
Opposition parties have alleged that the police are arresting the leaders and activists of political parties in various cases across the country.
According to police information, around 9,000 activists have been arrested across the country in connection with the violence surrounding the BNP rally in Dhaka on October 28 and the subsequent strike-blockade, burning of buses, cocktail explosions and car vandalism. And they are being sent to jail in the case of these allegations. As a result, the prisons are now overcrowded. In this situation, how much the human rights of the prisoners are being protected is the question of many people.
Every day, the accused are arrested and sent to jail for various crimes. The number of prisoners in the country’s prisons for various crimes, including drugs, is already over capacity. However, due to political violence, arrests in special operations by law enforcement agencies, the jails are now overcrowded. Many say that since the beginning of the ongoing political unrest, the number of prisoners has been increasing across the country.
According to the information of the prison headquarters, the inmate capacity of 68 prisons in the country is about 43,000, but as of November 12, about 89,000 were incarcerated. Whereas on September 2, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan himself said in the National Parliament that there are more than 77,000 people in prison.
A total of 68 prisons including 13 central and 55 district prisons are functioning in the country. The number of prisoners in these prisons till November 12 is 88,742 people. Among them 85,677 men and 3,065 women. But the capacity of the prisons is 42,866 people. The holding capacity of male prisoners is 40,937 and female 1,929.
According to the sources of Dhaka Central Jail, the capacity of prisoners in Dhaka Central Jail (Keraniganj) is 4,590 people. As the number of prisoners has increased since October 28, many have been sent to Kashimpur in Gazipur from Dhaka Central Jail. Still there are more than 9 thousand prisoners. Most of them are accused of political cases. According to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), 1,965 people were arrested in the capital from October 28 to November 14.
Senior Jail Superintendent of Dhaka Central Jail Subhash Kumar Ghosh told, “There are more prisoners than what is supposed to be there according to the rules. However, the number of prisoners is now much normal compared to the pressure that was there a few days ago in Dhaka Central Jail. The extra prisoners we had were sent to Kashimpur Jail. Now there are hardly any prisoners.
According to the sources of prison headquarters, there are 141 doctor posts for 68 prisons in the country. However, only three doctors have been appointed under the Directorate of Prisons. In all other prisons, treatment is provided by doctors attached to the Health Department. It is not possible to provide proper medical care to the prisoners. Relatives said that prisoners in prisons face many problems including staying, eating, sleeping, moving. Some suffer from various diseases including tuberculosis, diabetes, itching, fever, cough, kidney and liver problems. Many say that the prison has become a place of crisis rather than a correctional facility.
BNP vice president of a unit of Banani Ward No. 19 in the capital Giyas Uddin’s wife Khaleda Begum told that my husband was arrested on October 18. He was often ill. After going to prison, I came back looking sicker. The body is slightly swollen from before.
According to the prison headquarters, the prisoners were given roti and jaggery every morning, now they are given vegetables, roti or halwa roti or khichuri. Lunch is served with rice, vegetables, pulses, fish or meat. And at night, rice, vegetables, pulses are given. Most of those in prison are hajtis (prisoners under trial). However, those who are supposed to be given division under the Special Persons Act are being given division.
In these matters, the Assistant Prison Inspector General of the Directorate of Prisons Main Uddin Bhuiyan told, “Usually there are 80,000 prisoners.” However, the period of political violence increases slightly. Most of the prisoners are prisoners and their food is now better than before. Those who get division are also getting division.’
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that there is no plan to increase the capacity of the prisons even though there are double prisoners and various problems. On September 2, the Home Minister told the National Parliament that even if there is a capacity to hold 42 thousand prisoners, we can keep 90 thousand prisoners in the prisons. So, there is no need to increase the capacity for now. We will take action later if necessary. Construction or expansion of prisons is in progress in Mymensingh, Comilla, Khulna, Narsingdi and Jamalpur. He said that once the work of the under-construction prisons is completed, the prisoner capacity will also increase.
Concerned about the matter, senior lawyer Advocate Manzil Morsed told, “Those who are in jail also have human rights. They have to ensure their stay, food and everything related to the prison, i.e. the government. Now if 5 people are accommodated in a place where 10 people are kept, then the human rights of all 10 people are violated. Capacity is determined by ensuring the rights of prisoners. If 20 people join a toilet then how long will they go to the toilet? It will affect their health. There are many other problems like not being able to sleep due to lack of space. But the government is not reducing arrests. The issues need to be considered by the government. If people want to arrest and keep more, then they should arrange a place.
Advocate Manzil Morsed believes that this is happening because of the weakness of the rule of law.
Associate professor and crime expert of Dhaka University Social Welfare and Research Institute thinks that there is a question whether all the political leaders are involved in the crimes in which the political leaders are being arrested and sent to jail before the elections or they are being politically harassed. Touhidul Haque He told, “Opposition is suppressed with politically motivated cases.” The same has happened with whoever has been in power in the past. Now the cases which are sent to prison are very important in the eyes of the law. But there is a lot of discussion about how the cases happened. Allegations of political influence are behind the cases.
He said, “In our country, before the elections, the ruling party tries to control in various ways. Destabilizing the situation from the opposition and controlling the situation from the side of the government is going on like this. Our democracy falls between these two processes. That’s why we have so much difficulty. The number of inmates in the jail may increase in the coming days. And with this arrest, free and fair elections will not be possible.
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