Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Cactus by different names; About Maldivian prisoners, prisons and jails (Part II)

Recently there was an announcement that a minimum security jail has been built at Himmafushi and that it has commenced operations with the transfer of some prisoners from Feydhoo Finolhu.

Apparently this ‘jail’ will be able to accommodate 100 people and according to media reports, ‘mostly the building would act as a treatment facility for those prisoners who had been sentenced to jail time on drug abuse charges’. Some of the media quotes;

“We will shortlist the prisoners who will be transferred to Feydhoo Finolhu from the jail and we will follow strict procedure during the process,” Dr Waheed said.
“We will consider their sentences and their behavior……..We have to change their way of thinking somewhat,” he said. .”( eh eh!!!!….interesting quote….how may one achieve this?????? ) “Then we can introduce them into the rehab treatments.’ The Deputy Minister said that the facility at Feydhoo Finolhu was not permanent.

So based on this report I would assume that what we actually have at Himmafushi is a minimum security prison, while what we have at Feydhu finolhu would be a jail?

One may wonder at this point what’s a minimum security prison?

Prisons are often classified according to different security levels and different countries may adopt different type of categorizations. The level of prison security designated to a prison can be used to gauge the extent to which an offender who is assigned to that facility is separated from the community.
The following is a very general classification of prisons, according to prison security levels.

I felt the need to write about it here because I think we have now entered an era where we can actually speak about prison category levels openly in the media. I also feel it is important for the general public to understand what is implied by ‘lui jallu’ and the likes which may otherwise appear to be gibberish to the lay person.

Minimum-security prisons are generally intended to imprison low-risk, first-time offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes. These institutions sometimes function as transitional housing for prisoners from maximum- or medium-security prisons who will soon be paroled. Minimum-security facilities need not have a huge infrastructure and can just be a dormitory. Inmates assigned to such facilities are trusted and expected to comply with prison rules.

So what we have at himmafushi called the ‘lui jallu’ is probably a minimum security prison (though one of the papers did refer to it as a medium security prison) where people who are convicted of substance abuse problems (lets assume this will also be first time offenders) will be imprisoned and hopefully they will get the opportunity to undergo a good prison based drug rehabilitation programme prior to being offered parole.

Medium security prisons

Do we have a medium security prison in the Maldives and who gets imprisoned there?
Medium security prisons generally imprison extremely violent or nonviolent offenders and they are housed within common living areas.

Hence, inmates in medium-security facilities typically occupy cells that may accommodate more than one prisoner. In such a facility, freedom of movement, privileges and access to various educational, vocational, or therapeutic programs are greatly restricted. Prison officials can also limit visitation and extra precaution is generally taken to monitor communication between inmates and visitors.

Maximum-security prisons are mostly utilized to imprison the most dangerous inmates who are a severe threat to public safety, staff, and other inmates. Inmates confined in a maximum security unit are generally expected to remain in their cell 23 hours a day. During the other one hour they may be allowed to take a bath or exercise outside.

I wonder who may be imprisoned in such a facilty in the Maldives now. We have heard from various political prisoners from the past that they were subjected to prison conditions as may exist in a maximum security prison. So we definitely have or have had such maximum security prisons in the country.

Perhaps it is time we used these prisons to imprison people such as gang leaders or those who dare to kill people mercilessly on broad day light so as to deter any further gang related killings on the streets of Male’ or in any part of the Maldives.

In addition to these some countries also have super-max or maxi-maxi prisons which are also called “control units”. These prisons have severe restrictions as human contact is minimal and inmates are kept in solitary confinement in small (generally in six feet by eight feet) cells for long periods each day. They eat alone and have no opportunities for work or for socialization. Outdoor recreation is allowed only once a week and restraints are used whenever prisoners leave their cells. Those who are sentenced to these types of prisons include the most violent and dangerous prisoners and those who are most likely to escape.

Besides these there are prisons for women (we understand that such separate facilities for women are available for female prisoners in the Maldives) and there are separate prisons for minors who are generally housed in juvenile correctional institutes (perhaps the previous facility at the current “lui jallu” in Himma fushi served this purpose?).

Usually individuals who have not reached the legal age of adulthood are not sent to prisons with adults. Instead, they are housed in juvenile correctional institutions if they committed such crimes as theft, robbery, rape, and murder. In some parts of the world correctional institutes also house minors who have committed acts that would not be crimes if adults committed them, but which are prohibited to minors. Examples of such acts include running away from home or truancy (missing school). Perhaps in the Maldives the centre at Maafushi serves this purpose.

Usually confinements of juveniles are for shorter periods and generally they are released after they reach adulthood, unless their delinquent offenses are accompanied by other more serious crimes.

Juvenile centres may offer programs such as basic education, vocational and technical training (such programs are apparently offered at the Maafushi juvenile centre), and counselling on an individual or group basis ( we need more counsellors in the country who could provide quality servies at these centres,so that we can nip issues in the bud, ...before these juvenile delinquents blossoms to adulthood and then become full fledged criminals).

What are the type of programs that can be run in a prison?

Thus, the prison classification facilitates security requirements with program needs.

In an ideal situation prisoners at admission to the facility should undergo medical and mental health screenings. Individual profiles of each inmate ought to be developed and this should include the offender’s crime, social background, education, job skills and work history, health, substance abuse history, and criminal record, including prior prison sentences.

Further, after the initial assessment inmate behavior and continuing risk assessments should be carried out by prison staff and this should determine the inmate’s progression through the various custody levels to minimum custody and eventual release. Thus, aiding the newly formed parole board to determine whether a particular prisoner has made enough progress that warrant release to the community on parole. Making the basis for release on parole more transparet through a well documented process of progressive rehabilitation which facilitated overall improvements in that particular prisoner.

Prisoners while under imprisonment should be made to work and undergo other rehabilitative self improvement programs, and treatment.

They must also know that as they serve their sentences, they have to comply with prison rules, do the assigned work, and participate in the corrective programs that may be offered to them. Prisoners who violate prison rules must be punished and should be moved to a more restrictive classification or a more secure prison.

Unfortunately the opposite is happening in the Maldivian situation. Prisoners who violate prison rules, organize strikes, terrorize the staff and other inmates are then transferred for home visits/family visits and are allowed to be back in the community where they can again get access to drugs or are given the opportunity to offend again.

If we read the recent news reports we know this as a fact as those brought following prison hunger strikes were rearrested in less than 24 for possession of drugs. Prisoners brought to Male for parole/family visits, following a series of previous strikes were also rearrested within a short span of time for reoffending......

However the hope is, as a proper prison system is established in the country and the general public become more aware, we will cease to see the tolerance of such behaviours both by the public and by the concerned authorities ( part 111....will follow soon!!).

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