Improvement of Real Situation of Overcrowding in Prison (IRSOP)


Project Period: 2008-2018

Working Area: The project is being implemented in thirteen districts (i.e. Dhaka, Bogra, Mymensingh, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Jessore, Khulna, Barisal, Faridpur, Sylhet, Chittagong, and Comilla) and it is proposed to expand the same in Pabna, Patuakhali, Kustia and Gazipur from January 2016, and to further extend the project work in Sunamgonj, Noakhali, Tangail and Naogaon from January 2017, total 21 districts.

Donors: Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Partners: BRAC, Madaripur Legal Aid Association, RDRS, DAM, Light House

Context: The prison population in Bangladesh is growing exponentially with the numbers today almost double the 44,000 prisoners incarcerated ten years ago. Bangladesh’s prisons now house three times the number of prisoners for whom they were originally built. An overwhelming number, approximately 70%, including women and in some cases even children, are in pre-trial custody. Many have been in prison and awaiting trial for longer than the maximum punishment they could have obtained for the crime they were charged with.

There are significant numbers of foreign nationals who are languishing in jail, despite their sentences having expired (‘over stayers’) because their countries of nationality/residence do not recognize them or make arrangements for their repatriation. Prisons may also hold individuals who would be better served by the social welfare system such as women who are still occasionally found held in safe custody, persons who are drug dependent and the mentally ill.

Massive overcrowding results in deplorable living conditions for prisoners. Prisons are unable to deliver minimum international human rights standards of adequate living conditions, dignity and privacy. In addition, overcrowding gives rise to health concerns as contagious diseases that can be easily transmitted.

Several institutional constraints contribute to prison overcrowding. For instance, Courts routinely order accused persons to be placed in pre-trial custody, regardless of the seriousness of the alleged offence. They rarely explore alternatives to imprisonment. Once in detention, prisoners may remain incarcerated for years given severe backlogs in the courts. Lack of coordination between criminal justice system actors, particularly the police, judiciary, prison officials, and lawyers, causes further delays in the trial process.

While in detention, most prisoners lack adequate legal representation. In many cases, they are simply too poor to afford legal service. Few are aware of their rights or remedies or know enough about the working of the judicial system to represent them. Lack of access to legal aid, even though it may be available through the government or private organisations, is another obstacle.

Goal: The project goal is to contribute to reducing overcrowding in prisons by providing legal aid services to indigent under-trial prisoners.

Objectives: The project objectives are to enhance the capacity of paralegals and legal aid services and also to increase responsiveness of criminal justice agencies, and to alleviate the pressures on the criminal justice system through paralegal aid services.

Activities:

  • Arrange and coordinate and participate for proper orientation, Basic Criminal Law and Procedure, Paralegal Aid Clinic (PLC) and Information Management System (IMS) Training of the paralegals and DPOs from time to time as per the targets mentioned in the budget. BLAST will be responsible to for the capacity building of the Paralegals and project staff by way of providing mentoring, on the job training, peer learning etc.
  • Arrange and participate in necessary refresher’s training for new Paralegals and DPOs.
  • Prisoners released through paralegal intervention
  • Paralegal legal intervention
  • Provision of legal assistance and advice to the target audience (especially women and children) in police stations.
  • Provision of legal assistance and advice to the target audience in courts.
  • Identifying released prisoners who are in need of training about skill development.
  • Identifying released prisoners in need of referral services for counseling, detoxification and recovery from drug dependency and addiction.
  • Establish paralegal aid clinics in each prison and follow up individual cases through legal advice, assistance where required, access to legal aid and panel of lawyers.
  • Facilitate and attend the meetings of the Case Coordination Committees and prepare the minutes of those meetings. Follow up the decision of the CCC meetings. Reducing case backlog of Criminal Cases identified by CCC at least 50%

Expected Result: The impact of the project is quite significant. For example, 12,019 prisoners were released on bail, discharged and acquitted through the project interventions in the 17 districts. A total of 3,62,930 legal interventions were made which included legal assistance, collecting case documents and information from courts, prisons and police stations; assisting “safe custody” inmates; referral of cases to DLAC or panel/staff lawyers; relay of information to ‘On Call’ prisoners; and providing different pre-post services to the prisoners regarding bail, such as finding sureties, contacting family members, counseling and follow-up after release. Persons assisted in court are 1,39,834; Persons assisted in police station are 14,250; 8,843 prisoners were identified for skill development training; 6,426 prisoners identified for the drug referral;1,11,944 prisoners were legally empowered through the 4,600 PLC (Paralegal Aid Clinic) sessions conducted in side the prison; and 466 CCC meeting were held on the concerned districts.

 

BLAST, YMCA Development Center, 1/1 Pioneer Road, Kakrail, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
BLAST would like to thank Sara Hossain, Jahangir Alam, Arafat Hosen Khan, Amanda Sen, Rokeya Chowdhury & Kazi Ataul-al Osman for content development
Copyright © 2010, BLAST | Web Design: Siraj / Machizo, Jahangir / BLAST