August 2, 2023

It was recently disclosed that Sri Lankan Prions should be called a persistent issue, but nothing has been
done to make inmates comfortable to international standards. Today it is recorded that a 260 per cent
increase in prisons, criticised as ‘dungeons and some over-crowded prisons, make the worst criminals.

Some International prisons, which are said to be in developed, counties such as the USA or Britain,
humanely treat prisoners with separate rooms for inmates and library facilities with separate toilets and
washrooms. After all, prisoners are also human beings made out of feelings, blood and bones. Just
because they are tempted to be criminals or drug addicts, should they be treated crudely?

In some cases, toilet pans and wash basins are the same room where one sleeps on a mat on the ground.
Mosquito-infested rooms make it worse for inmates. Although the writer has not visited any prison to see
the prevailing conditions, he goes by what he hears. From the TV, he has seen how washing clothes is
done and queuing up to get prisoner’s meals.

Prisons are meant to rehabilitate criminals and drug addicts.

If the prison sentence means rehabilitating them on the right path, it should be the opposite factor in Sri
Lanka. It is why inmates sometimes turn to criminal activities such as climbing up to roofs of the prison
block and doing other shady deeds. During the previous Government, a few inmates were targeted and
shot at. In this way, how can prisons become rehabilitation units?

The Government has yet to decide not to build more prisons. If that is the case, the Government should
reduce congestion in prisons, and minor offenders released, who cannot pay their fines. Overcrowding
adds up to congestion, and feeding them costs so much. A state minister once suggested it, but for some
reason, it was not implemented up to date. As a first step for offenders who could not pay their fines,
actions should be taken against prisoners who could not pay their fines to be released from prison on any
particular day, such as Independence Day, Vesak, Poson and any other special day.

Thriving Business from Outside

There is a thriving drug business directly from benind the Welikada Prison walls. It was highlighted in the
Sri Lankan media recently how the drug Lords operate from behind the prison walls with links to their Sri
Lankan drug Lords working from overseas countries and having direct links with their local agents. How
many times officers were involved with aiding and abetting drugs? Relations who visit to see prisoners
should not be allowed to bring any parcels or packets. How many times do key prisoners or drug Lords
found using mobile phones? What action have the authorities taken about it? It only has become a TV

Corrupt officials everywhere

In prisons, with the help of corrupt prison officials, most guards continue with the drug business from
behind the prison walls. Murders related to drug rivals are on the increase. Once, a High Court Judge was
planned and murdered behind the prison walls in which he was assassinated by gunshot wounds on 20 th
November 2004. He was, at the time, 58 years old.

Today, many drugs (especially ICE) speedily spread among schoolchildren, which is highly
dangerous and could affect the younger generation commencing from school. Many have killed their parents after taking this drug (particularly the drug (ICE). Moreover, lovers face death daily
due to using sharp instruments on victims. The fact remains that once the person is puzzled by
‘ICE’, one does not know how he behaves.

If prisons are meant for rehabilitation, prisons have today become stores of criminal offences for
which reasonable remedies need finding by the authorities.


By Dr Tilak S. Fernando

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