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TALKING about prisons, the chief justice of Sindh said last Saturday that more than retribution and deterrence the main purpose of imprisonment should be reform and rehabilitation. In Pakistan, where the prison system is by no means in ideal shape — Karachi jail has 6,000 prisoners when its capacity is for under 2,000 — the need to address the moral correction dimension is conspicuously inadequate.
This can get troublesome for a prison like the Karachi Central Jail, which houses more prisoners than it was built for. The prisoners primarily look after themselves and have to participate in daily chores such as laundry, cooking and serving meals or tailoring. Some prisoners find it difficult to come to terms with the sentence they are dealt with and this is where Criminon comes in.
When members of an NGO set out to rehabilitate prisoners in Sindh’s most populated jail in 2007, prison officials told them that no matter what they do the prisoners will keep coming back. Seven years later, hardly any prisoner, who has completed the programme offered by the Society for the Advancement of Health, Education and the Environment (Sahee), ever returned to the Karachi Central Jail. The rehabilitation programme, that was changing the lives of prisoners, was the centre of discussion at The Second Floor (T2F) on Friday.
Just the thought of visiting any jail anywhere conjures up pictures of a dark and gloomy prison, much like ancient medieval concrete dungeons, where hardened criminals, terrorists and murderers languished in captivity, forgotten by time itself. My reveries of this nature were instantly shattered as I passed through the heavily-barricaded gates of Karachi Central Jail (KCJ) and drove through a tree-lined driveway that led to the jail’s pre-partition, British-built structure which — aside from the barbed wire fences and heavy presence of prison guards
This statement could not be more applicable to a class of prison inmates attending Criminon rehabilitation programme at the Karachi Central Jail. Prisoners young and old, some hardened by tough years of the jail others still in hope to live a life of freedom, all have one thing in common — they do not want to return to the prison and to the life of crimes they never knew why they got into.
KARACHI, Aug 28: At first glance, it is just a regular classroom with four students at each of the six desks quietly going through their lessons. But the students are not children and this really isn’t a normal class. Instead it’s an international standard rehabilitation programme for prisoners being run at the Karachi Central Jail.