Report points out need to reform and presents a list of recommendations
Human Rights Committee 25 June, 2010 - Former convicts should be entitled to security clearance certificates, so that they are not deprived of the opportunity to start a new life, according to the national assembly’s (NA) human rights committee.
Presenting the report yesterday, the chairman of the committee, Gasa MP Damcho Dorji said that ex-convicts could be compelled to resort to more crimes, when they are deprived of the opportunity of employment or starting a business. “Unless absolutely necessary, in the interest of the sovereignty and security of the country, ex-convicts should be given the certificate,” said the chairmen.
However, the assembly did not take any decision on the issue. The committee, which toured some detention centres and jails in the country, presented their observations and suggested a long list of improvements, starting from infrastructure to facilities, to the need for separate prisons for men and women.
Damcho Dorji pointed out that overcrowding of inmates was common in most jails. “Overcrowded detention centres and jails pose a risk to the health and hygiene of the inmates,” he said. The Chamgang jail holds 426 prisoners to its capacity of 296. The Thimphu district has more than double its capacity and, when the committee visited the detention centre in Thimphu, the centre had 62 detainees, six more than the capacity. The centre also did not have proper ventilation.
The committee also reported that there is a need for separate prisons for women and juveniles, introduction of security gadgets, conjugal rooms in prisons, toilet facilities and separate space, to serve as classrooms for those, who take part in non-formal education program.
The chairperson said there has been tremendous progress in the protection and promotion of human rights, with other developments, but said that, due to lack of attached toilet facilities, some of the inmates use buckets provided in each room to be used at night.
The need for reformative activities, like vocational and reformatory activities, introduction of distance education for school dropout convicts, and professional counselling for inmates, particularly drug, alcoholic addicts and HIV patients, was also reflected in the report.
Damcho Dorji said that there is a problem of medical treatment of prisoners, due to lack of sufficient troops in the jail division of the RBP to take sick inmates to hospital. The report also reflected on the need for undergarments, vest, slippers, sanitary napkins for those, who cannot afford, more information material, and TVs and outdoor games for inmates.
Deliberating on the report, home minister, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji said that plans are being formulated to rehabilitate the prisoners, and a new reformatory jail is under construction at Dolamgang, Gelephu, and a model police station at Thimphu is in the pipeline.
The report also recommended to create separate budget for jails, instead of clubbing it with the royal Bhutan police budget, to carry out reformative activities, and suggested the government to establish a separate jail department and a central forensic lab in the country.
Meanwhile, most MPs supported the observations and said that improving the jail conditions would not incur much expenditure. The national assembly Speaker, Jigme Tshiltim said that the conditions of the jails should be improved, and told the assembly to look into improving the conditions and submit a report next year. The tshogpon said that the committee should present a yearly report on the human rights in Bhutan.
As of April 30, there are 1,078 prisoners against the total prison capacity of 846 in the country. There are currently eight jails in the country, with the central jail at Chamgang, Thimphu and five district jails, one dungkhag jail, an armed force jail and a youth rehabilitation centre.
By Yangchen C Rinzin