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Crime in Dhaka Central Jail

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Noman Mosharef :

Overcrowded prisoners and corruption of Jail staff have made the Dhaka Central Jail a ‘mental torture-cell’ instead of building it a correction centre.

An evil group rose inside the jail with combination of a section of detainees and staff members who are taking money illegally from the prisoners and their relatives in the name of supplying well accommodation and providing good food, it was alleged.

If any prisoner, unable to give money, has to face misbehave, severe punishment and even deprived of getting regular food. As a result, prisoners’ relatives are compelled to provide money to the jail staff despite their poor financial condition.

According to the relatives of detainees, a prisoner in Dhaka Central Jail has to pay a big amount of money to enjoy minimum rights inside the jail, though the state is providing those facilities free of cost as per Bangladesh Jail Code.

This correspondent came to know these while talking to some people who were released from the Dhaka Central Jail recently after being detained there for several months.
“The jail has apparently become hell for those who are unable to manage the money,” said a bus driver who was there in the central jail for 50 days.

“I saw two youths crying relentlessly for the whole night on my first day in jail, but the jail people were unmoved,” said the bus driver.

He said these two prisoners would be forced to lie down on their left or right side in a row, which is known in jail as ‘hilsa fall’.

The designated cell keeper then pushes the back of the last prisoner in the row with his leg to ensure there is no blank space between prisoners in the room, he said.

An ex-jail official wishing anonymity, however, said each prisoner is entitled to get six square feet of space.

Abdul Jalil, who get release recently said, “As I could not pay any money to the staff members I had to stay in a normal ward. 65 prisoners are crammed into a room suitable for 20 people at most. We had no place for sleeping. We could only sit with our legs up. This is how I had to spend every night during my three months of imprisonment.

According to the relatives of detainees, a prisoner in Dhaka Central Jail has to spend around Tk 25,000 to 30,000 per month for food and other services which is supplying free by the state.

However, major portion of the inmates’ money goes to those convicts who are given the charge by the jail authorities to look after other prisoners.

Those in charge take more than Tk 14,000 a month from each prisoner for the minimum required space to sleep without trouble, get food served by the jail authorities and enough water for bathing and toilet use.

The rest Tk 13,000 is spent on additional food like eggs, fish and meat alongside those served by the jail authorities.

Besides, a prisoner has to spend Tk 200 to Tk 1,200 to see his or her family, in which one is allowed to talk to family members in a room through a window.

The jail staff at the gate charge Tk 200 for sending every Tk 1,000 to an inmate. So, actually a prisoner gets Tk 800 for every Tk 1,000 his or her family sends. Horrific sufferings wait for those who are unable to manage the amount.

The prisoners meet with their relatives in a small room. The space is insufficient to meet 8,500 to 9,000 prisoners with their relatives, when the prisoners and the relatives talk they could not listen each other, the former jail said.

The time of meeting with the relatives of prisoners’ is 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Only 30-40 relatives can meets the prisoners in a day, which is not sufficient, sources said.

As per existing rule the general prisoners can meet with their relatives once in a week and for convicted prisoners once in fortnight.

But it has been seen that some prisoners meet with relatives regularly. It is possible by managing the deputy jailer and the chief guard of the jail in exchange of money.

The former jail official said, jail authorities are supposed to provide inmates sufficient space to sleep, enough food and medicines. Adequate accommodation for all inmates in Dhaka Central Jail could be arranged, he said.

Wishing anonymity, another ex-jail official said there was no rule to charge from any relative for meeting an inmate. There is a prescribed form that needs to be filled in and the jail authorities charge only Tk 2 for this. And even that is also illegal.

Contacted, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told The New Nation yesterday that he had no information about such corruption inside the central jail.

“As a reporter you can find out the truth. If it is true then publish those reports in the newspapers or help me providing the real information,” he said.

The minister said, “They are criminals who remained in jail. So, they do not always tell the truth.”

DIG (Prison) Tawhid Islam told The New Nation that he was not informed of any such incidents in the jail.”

The jailor of Dhaka Central Jail, however, could not be reached despite repeated attempts over his cell phone.

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