The ministry of human rights submitted to the Supreme Court data on prisons in Pakistan, explaining that diseases such as the coronavirus could spread in overcrowded prisons and become a huge problem.
It included the number of prisoners in jails, under trial, convicted and condemned, as well as the number of women and children incarcerated. The report also mentioned the number of seriously or terminally ill prisoners in Pakistan’s jails.
It said there are 20 prisons in KP that have a collective capacity of 4,519 prisoners but actually house 9,900. Punjab has 41 prisons built to house 32,477 prisoners but there are 45,324 people incarcerated in the province, while Sindh has 24 prisons where 16,315 people are being kept against a capacity of 13,538. Balochistan has the fewest prisons, 11, but it 2,122 prisoners, which is less than the 2,585 it is able to house.
The report said there is an urgent need to release sick prisoners or prisoners with serious underlying health conditions because if they were to contract COVID-19, it would be fatal for them.
The Supreme Court has suspended the high and lower courts’ decisions to free prisoners under trial in petty crimes to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
The ministry said there are 3,203 sick prisoners in Punjab, 730 in Sindh, 1,171 in KP and 103 in Balochistan.
There are 6,753 prisoners in KP, 11,354 in Sindh, 24,545 in Punjab and 1,200 in Balochistan who are under trial and are entitled to bail, the report noted, adding that their release is strongly recommended to manage the severe overcrowding at jails.
The report noted that the possibility of widespread infections being spread across Pakistan’s prisons is high due to the overcrowded, which would be “hugely problematic” and prove fatal for the 1,500 senior citizen prisoners across the country.
It also provided data on equipment and medical staff at jails, showing that at least 50% of the posts were vacant.
Data on what the jails have done to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as providing sanitisers and masks, was also added.