KATHMANDU, Nov 9: The government is pushing a bill paving the way for the provinces to take responsibility for the management of various prisons.
According to the bill drafted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the provincial governments will take responsibility for the management and operation of prisons other than those specified by the government for management by the Prison Department.
Under the proposed law, the federal government will manage the central jails while provincial governments will take responsibility for most of the district jails . There are currently 68 jails in 77 districts across the country. Kathmandu and Dang districts have two jails each.
Home Ministry officials said that the federal government will keep the major jails with bigger capacity under its own purview while transferring most district jails to the provinces.
The bill , once enacted, will replace the half century-old Prison Management Act (1963) .
The bill registered at the House of Representatives will be tabled after the commencement of the winter session of parliament.
Meanwhile, the government has proposed that provincial police can be deployed in coordination with the district administration office for the security of jails operated by the provincial governments.
In an unprecedented provision, the bill proposes different cells for inmates belonging to the LGBTIQ community. Similarly, inmates with communicable diseases, senior citizens over 65 and those jailed for involvement in heinous crimes need to be kept in separate cells .
In another departure, the marital rights of inmates will be ensured under the proposed legislation. The details will be worked out in regulations that are yet to be drafted. Inmates can register their marriages through the jail to persons both within and outside the jail.
Female inmates with children below five can take them inside the prison and the authorities should have responsibility for their care if these children are dependent solely on their mothers.
However, implementing the new provisions appears hugely challenging . Prisons at present are compelled to incarcerate both inmates of sound health and those suffering from communicable diseases in the same cells because of lack of space. According to the latest report from Home Ministry, prisons across the country have been squeezing in over one third more inmates than their actual capacity.
The bill will also make it mandatory to provide a health post at every prison with a capacity of over 500 inmates and a separate hospital for a prison with a capacity of over 1,500 . Under the proposed legislation, prisoners will not be handcuffed behind bars or in court.
The government has furthermore proposed deploying prison inmates for various kinds of work inside the jail and paying them wages for such work . Inmates may nominate a paid teacher for themselves . The jail authorities may also deploy inmates for work at mills set up within the jail compound. Such workers will be paid wages also .
The comprehensive bill has proposed 10 years jail time or Rs 100,000 fine or both for breaking windows, doors or walls or digging tunnels for purposes of jailbreak, for taking jail staff hostage or for snatching weapons from them .