Reviewing Successes and Challenges: renewing commitments to prison reform in Pakistan

Islamabad - UNODC held a conference on prison reform in Pakistan  on 28 August in an effort to bring together key actors working with the prison system in Pakistan. 41 representatives from the Provincial Home, Prisons and Reclamation and Probation Department, Provincial District and Session Judges, Federal Ministries as well as civil society organisations participated in the discussions. 

Pakistani prisons are vastly overcrowded, leading to tremendous challenges in prison management. The problem of overcrowding directly affects the prison management's ability to categorise and separate high and low risk prisoners. There is an urgent need for increased capacity in both prisons and also in the criminal justice system as a whole. Prison security, staff capacity building, development of a prison registry software, as well as the need to change outdated legislation and rules were also discussed during this workshop. UNODC's Adviser on drug demand reduction and HIV/AIDS, Dr. Nadeem Rehman presented the audience with statistics on drug use in prisons and talked about the challenges facing the prison population health when it comes to injecting drug users and HIV/AIDS. 

Several of the key speakers stressed the importance of bringing forward issues from each region in order to understand the differences in needs and challenges. Debates around categorisation and separation of high and low risk prisoners were also central. The panel consisted of Mr. Muhammad Ayub Qureshi, IG Prisons Balochistan; Mr. Muzaffar Alam Siddiuiqe, DIG Prisons Sindh; Malik Muhammad Shaukat Feroz, DIG Prisons Punjab and Mr. Shah Salman, Deputy Director Prisons Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The participants were positive about UNODC's initiative and encouraged the organisation to continue this work for dialogue as it gives prison officials from all the provinces a forum to sit together and discuss their views on operational challenges and how to move forward. Likewise UNODC's Programme Officer on Prisons said that the event gave policy makers from federal and provincial levels a chance to interact and fill gaps that exist between their institutions which is essential to finding sustainable solutions for the future.