KATHMANDU, Dec 8: Even though the prison management has urged the government to reduce the number of prisoners by releasing non-violent inmates, the number of sexagenarian inmates has reached 308, causing burden for prison management in lack of proper care and support for them.
Of the total 74 prisons in 72 districts, the number of inmates above 65 years is 308, according to the Department of Prison Management under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Besides the elderly and other criminals, the prisons house children of inmates, women and some foreign inmates convicted in various crimes.
The Central Jail has the maximum of 42 elderly inmates. District Prison, Saptari holds 25 sexagenarian inmates, whereas prisons in Morang, Siraha and Lalitpur accommodate 15 elderly inmates who are above 65.
“Most of the elderly inmates suffer from age-related health problems. Some have serious cardiovascular problems while others have been suffering from gall bladder problems, diabetes and high blood pressure,” Bed Prasad Kharel, jailor of the Central Jail, Kathmandu said.
The jails are overcrowded beyond their capacity. Although the jails throughout the country can accommodate up to 10,000 inmates, 17,966 inmates are being forced to stay there.
“Many jails accommodate double the number of prisoners than their capacity. So it is not possible to give proper care and support to the elderly,” Kharel added. The lack of adequate diet, proper nutrition and seasonal diseases are common problems for elderly inmates across the country.
In many countries, the respective governments have taken steps to reduce their prison population by releasing non-violent inmates and inmates with good conduct. Some countries have been diverting few inmates to different community programs.
The prison management officials say that there is a need for serious prison reform programs to decrease the population of elderly inmates. “We are trying our best to minimize the population but have not been able to meet our goals,” Bed Bahadur Karki, director and information officer at the Department of Prison Management said.
Even as the Article 276 of the Constitution of Nepal states that the president as the head of the state, in accordance with the law, can grant pardon to inmates on any sentence passed by any court, judicial or quasi-judicial body on the occasion of national festivals, the prison management officials blame higher authorities for flouting the spirit of Prison Management Act by pardoning 'politically affiliated inmates' instead of elderly inmates in the recent years.
They claimed that misinterpretation in some contradictory legal provisions have helped in freeing several criminals serving terms for grave crimes while other inmates jailed for petty crimes have been compelled to serve full term even if they have crossed the age limit set in the Prison Act.
According to the act, a person above 70 years is considered an elderly whereas the Senior Citizen Act considers person of 65 years as elderly. The Senior Citizen Act states that any inmate between 65 and 70 years shall be granted pardon for 25 percent of jail term while inmates above 70 and below 75 years shall be pardoned 50 percent of sentence and those above 75 years shall be pardoned for 75 percent of jail term.