Prisons not for killing time, but for crime

Addressing the social issues of political prisoners is one aspect of this dimension. Simultaneously assessing the political impact of this question, is however yet another. Effective use of the window of opportunity for increasing the participation of the consultative process of all parties in implementation of prison and penal reform will of course produce welcome results. Prison sentence is not for killing time, but for killing crime.
l by Victor Cherubim

Prisoners’ Rehabilitation

(March 07, 2012, London, Sri Lanka Guardian)The Government of Sri Lanka states it has provided the Ministry of Rehabilitation & Prison Reform Rs.300 Million [£1.5m] for disbursement among rehabilitated former LTTE cadres to enable them to launch self employment ventures. Some 10,000 former combatants have been rehabilitated, and have been released “to mainstream society,” to date. They have been provided vocational training by the State and been equipped with necessary skills to lead a normal life.
Comment: Setting up a Political Prisoner Review Commission to assist and assess the political prisoner release and evaluation of progress, is a necessity. Rehabilitation is a lengthy process and has to be monitored sensitively over a period of years. Measures to promote livelihood, more comprehensive training programmes and provisions of credit facilities have to be envisaged, for engagement. Action for prisoner’s families’ welfare need should not be prompted from abroad, but planned and progressed.
Witness Protection 
The Government of Sri Lanka is anticipating enacting the Witness Protection Bill soon, according to assurances given by the Minister of Justice at the current session of UNHRC meeting in Geneva. The matter is currently being pursued by the Legal Draftsman enabling the authorities to take measures to ensure the credibility of information. The proposed law seeks to ensure the credibility of evidence to be extracted from witnesses through video conferencing.
Comment: Witness Protection is part and parcel of good governance. For witnesses to come forward means an assurance from security services, particularly the Police authorities that record of witness statements will be free of political bias, intimidation and/or mal administration practices. Protection can also mean many turning Crown witness, thus affording privilege, without prosecution. The climate of impunity from arrest and criminal justice has too long been ignored due possibly for other considerations, but now needs to be addressed by authorities. An independent Police Commission is a step in the right direction.
Prison Reform and Penal Reform

Drafting of legislation to overcome the continuing uncertainty about missing persons is planned by the Government.
This is a recommendation by the LLRC which no doubt will be implemented in due course of time, in the self interest of the island’s economy and in furtherance of the Buddhist way of creating a humane society. Independent Prison Visitors have always been at hand to support such a consultative process with prison staff and governors.
Comment: Overcrowding in Prisons has always been a problem and it is a welcome move to hear that the Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms has contemplated moving Welikade Colombo Baseline Remand Prison from its present setting to a more salubrious site. Land in Colombo is a scarce and a value added commodity, besides, this move is good management and forward thinking.
Control of Political Prisoners

The Government has time and again been criticised for its bunker mentality in its relationship with political prisoners. It has been suggested that the fear psychosis of the LTTE raising its head again has to be avoided at all cost. What is not to be forgotten is the fact that humanitarian concerns have always been the guidelines of policy, but there has also been an apparent understandable weakness in implementation, Sri Lanka no doubt has the courage and the will to correct this anomaly, at its time of choosing and in its own national self interest.
Comment: Addressing the social issues of political prisoners is one aspect of this dimension. Simultaneously assessing the political impact of this question, is however yet another. Effective use of the window of opportunity for increasing the participation of the consultative process of all parties in implementation of prison and penal reform will of course produce welcome results. Prison sentence is not for killing time, but for killing crime.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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