The Existing Problems in Prison System in Bangladesh (Findings)

  1. The problem of criminality in prison

The problem of criminality in prison is another matter of great concern but it is always remain in dark. There are many reasons of such criminality. Most of the prisoners are kept in same room without classifying his age, nature of crime and his previous crime report. As a result the habitual criminal easily dominates over the fresher prisoners. Some try to establish their superiority over his fellow prisoners through illegal manner, so an illegal competition is always continued among such inmates who create many sorts of violence in the prison. Another crime in prison is related to sexuality. “The continuous long absence from members of the family deprives the inmates of their sex gratification which is one of the vital biological urges of human life. Not being able to control this sex desire, the prisoners quite often resort to unnatural offences”  Some inmates involve in illicit relationship with women inmates taking help of some dishonest officers or staffs of the prison. Theft in prison is another crime, although it is petty in nature. Most of the prisoners are careless to the rules of the prison which creates the instability in prison.

  1. The Health and Medicare Condition of the prisoners:

The health of prisoners is an important issue which needs attention of the prison authorities. The state of health includes the description regarding past and present suffering of the disease of the new prisoners. The medical facility which is provided by the authority is not good enough. The previous condition of prisoner’s health and facilities provided by the authorities was worse than present. Prisoners are served with so low quality of food that they fall sick after consuming those foods. Chronic blood-dysentery has been a common disease of the prisoners in all the jails of Bangladesh. Almost all of them suffer from malnutrition, obviously the inadequate quantity of food being the reason. The overall condition has negative impact on the health hygiene of the prisoners. Most of the jail authorities in Bangladesh failed to fulfill Minimum standard set by the UN. They failed to ensure minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation inside the prisons. Because of the low quality food, inadequate water supply, unhygienic toilet and damp environment inmates suffer from various diseases like indigestion, diarrhea, dysentery and skin disease. The attached hospitals of the jails do not have sufficient medical facilities sometimes seriously ill patients have died due to lack of transport facilities when they are brought from jail to the hospital.

“The prisoners of 56 prisons among 67 around the Bangladesh are deprived from health care and medical facility due to the absence of prison hospital. There is no availability of ambulance services. So, the severe patients of prisons are taken to the general hospital by the prison van for their treatment. The treatment activates have been closed due to lack of manpower and doctor of which 11 prisons using the hospital. There are 11 prisons using the hospital amongst 67 prisons around the country, but there are not enough doctors and manpower to provide service to the ill prisoners. The conditions of the sick prisoners are being deteriorated due to lack of clean water supply and proper sanitation. There are only 16 doctors for about one sick prisoner all over the country as well as no specialist amongst them. The treatment services for the sick prisoners are being hampered due to the lack prisons hospital availability in the 56 prisons”   The High  Court of Madhya Pradesh, “The Court issued directions to the state Government to initiate adequate steps to control spread of diseases in prisons”  The Court enumerated the factors which account for increase in the number of prisoners exposed to infection of tuberculosis in prisons, they are as follows :

             Delay in diagnosis, neglect of prisoner’s health problems insufficient health services in prison.

             Failure of  medical services to refer T.B suspects for diagnosis or to initiate timely treatment;

             Transfer of  prisoners with infectious tuberculosis between and inside prisons;

             Overcrowding and prolonged confinement inside the cells

             Failure to segregate infectious cases from other prisoners;

             Sub-standard treatment resulting in failure to cure patients and prolonged infectiousness;

             Poor ventilation and poor nutrition may also lead to cause of disease

The prison hospitals are helping the following prisons; Dhaka, Chittagong, Rabgpur, Rajshahi, Jessore, Khulna, Barishal, Kumilla, Sylhet, Mymensing and Kashimpur. In total 16 doctors are providing medical services among the prisons but none of them are specialist. Only one of them is a women doctor. In Dhaka central prison 5 doctors, Kumilla prison 1 doctor, Chittagong prison 2 doctor, Sylehet prison 1 doctor, Mymensing prison 1 doctor, Jesore prison 1 doctor, Barisal prison 1 doctor and Kashimpur women prison 1 doctor provides the treatment facility to the sick prisoners. But they do not have a nurse to help the doctor. Rest of the 56 prisons, there is no prison hospital. But they have primary treatment centre. But they have no doctor. Sometimes the prison authority hires the doctor to provide medical treatment to sick prisoners. There is no facility for medical examination amongst the prisons. The prison authority provides Paracitamol, Napa, Histacine as well as Oral saline free of cost. Then, expensive medicines have to buy from the outside of the prison by the prisoners themselves. On 1972, a prison hospital of 50 beds was started at Dhaka Prisons with one doctor. Gradually it increased it bed on 150. There is a hospital of 200 beds in Kashimpur prisons, but there is only 1 doctor providing the services. If the prisoners become sick, the prisons police provides them the treatment as well as the medicine. The sick prisoners does not get the chance to be admitted to the hospital due to lack of accommodation at the hospital. In many time, dangerous terrorist as well as the VIP prisoners engaged the hospital cabin using their power as well as the illegal money. The food standard of the prisons is very bad. Sometimes the prison authority provides them with spoiled food.

  1. Prison Labour

The main object of punishment is to reform the offender. The offender is a human being. Applying the proper treatment or reformative method we can rehabilitate them in society. Utilizing of prisoners in productive work has been accepted as  one of the best  method of bringing about rehabilitation of offenders.TheXIIth International Penal and Penitentiary Conference held at Hague in 1950 suggested ‘work’ as the best alternative for channelizing the potential of prisoners for a useful purpose. The productive activities of the prisoners will be helpful for their physical and mental health and they will also be able to help their family by giving the money which is earned by them. As a result their family will sustain and they can think of returning to society as Law abiding citizens. Considering this matter I would like to refer the Justice Mullah Committee Report (1983), the supreme court of India observed that it contains a lot of suggestions as:

“All prisoners under sentence should be required to work subject to their physical and mental fitness as determined medically. Work is not to be conceived as additional punishment but as a means of furthering the rehabilitation of the prisoners, their training for work, the forming of better work habits, and of preventing idleness and disorder…..”

But it is a matter of great concern that the productive activities of prison inmates are used as tools of punishment. Extra work load, low wage and not pay the wage in proper amount and manner are the cause of considering such reformative method as a tools of punishment. The Supreme Court in State of Gujarat V. The High Court of Gujarat, reterated that reasonable wages should be paid to prisoners for the work or labour done while in prison and laid down guidelines for the same. The Court further held that conviction for a crime does not reduce  the person into a non-person whose rights are subject to  whims of prison administration. In our prisons, the opportunities to productive activities are limited.

  1. Deaths in Prison:

It is the common scenario of every prisons of Bangladesh. According to the prison authorities, many died from sickness. It was reported in the daily star in 9 July, 2013 that at least 49 prisoners were admitted into Dhaka Central jail hospital with serious injuries and wounds but failed to get required urgent treatment outside the prison. About 31 prisoners died in prison from January 1st to 3rd December 2013, it was reported by ASK. According to the rights organisation ASK, in 2010, 17 prisoners under trial and 3 convicted prisoners died in jail custody   and  in 2009, 28 prisoners under trial died in jail, as well as 30 convicted prisoners.

  1. Overcrowding in prison

Overcrowding is one of the most important problems of the prison system in Bangladesh. In Kasimpur -2 Jail there are 1900 prisoners which can hold 1500 prisoners. Bangladesh has a capacity of holding 27,294 prisoners in all its prisons as to the numbers of the jails in Bangladesh, three different authorities have mentioned three different numbers. Faustina Pereira has mentioned that the total numbers of jails in Bangladesh are 81,  Altaf Parvez has mentioned that the numbers are 77,   Ain O Salish Kendra has estimated 66 jails in Bangladesh.

According to the account of Faustina among 81 Jails, 9 are central jails, 56 district jails, and 16 are Thana jails across the country. According to a statistics of the first week of September, 2001, there was a total of 68,405 were 47,430 were awaiting trail and 1,203 were detained under the special powers Act, 1974, about 5,000 were awaiting trial of offences. Unfortunately their term of punishment was less than the period they had spent in jail.

Central jails accommodate convicted prisoners, whereas other jails house the trial prisoners. Overcrowding is the most actual problem encountered by the inmates, and it goes, usually, to such an extent that the total number of inmates in almost 3 – 5 times the total accommodation of the jails. One statistic of 2000 revealed that all the jails of Bangladesh can accommodate a maximum number of 23,942 inmates in total. But the jails had to house 59,885 inmates, more than two times the total capacity.Dhaka Central Jail can accommodate 2632 prisoners, but in 2003, it housed inmates three its capacity, The condition of Chittagong central jail was worse. It has the capacity to accommodate 1047 inmates, but in 2003, 5734 prisoners had to stay there, about five times its official capacity. In 2003 the total number of prisoners was 71,072. It was almost three times the official capacity of 25,396, In this year 34,530 prisoners were housed in 55 district jails which was more than three times the official capacity.

On 31 December 2004 there were 74,701 prisoners in 11 central jails and 55 district jails. Among the inmates 30.77 percent were convicted and 68.64 percent were awaiting trial. 31 prisoners were detained under the special powers Act, 1974. There were 401 foreign prisoners, who had completed their term of sentence, were languishing in different jails. The increase in the number of inmates can be attributed to arbitrary arrest and delayed trial procedure. A large number of prisoners cannot take the help of law because of their poverty. They even do not know their right to free legal aid. In some cases the inmates are kept in the jails after completion of their sentence.

6.Sleeping Condition in prison:

The sleeping condition in prison is matter of worry. Because Prisoners have to sleep in shifts at night because of the overcrowded situation of the jail. The current striped, coarse uniform worn by ordinary prisoners is considered most demoralising. A bed consists of two blankets one to spread on the floor, and another to use as a pillow — this is both inadequate and degrading. Such conditions are detrimental to prisoners physical and mental health, and in violation of their human rights.  Jail code allocates a space of 35 square feet for every prisoner, but prisoners hardly get the space mentioned. Each inmate had only one square feet of standing space in Naogoan Jail, let alone space for sleeping. Condition of Chittagong Central Jail in most deplorable as 200 inmates was made to use a single toilet and water was rationed to one mug per inmate per day.

  1. Condition of prison’s buildings:

The prison condition is very bad in Bangladesh. The building of the prisons is old and some are not sufficiently secured. In the absence of proper maintenance the old building may collapse. Budget constraints delayed the new construction. Overcrowding, tiny cells for prisoners, insufficient ventilation and sewerage have created serious health problems for the prisoners. In a small cell eight persons can sleep and other eight can lean against the wall and weir for sleeping. Poor ventilation and low water supply for drinking and bathing cause the permanent problem of ill health of the prisoners. Low budgets and corruption give rise to inadequate nutrition and insufficient medical facilities. Scarcity of medical and other facilities encouraged the prison officials to become corrupt. Indiscriminate arrests and procrastination of judicial procedure are the reasons for overcrowding in the prisons. In 2004 about 68 percent of the prisoners were awaiting trial. Many prisoners were arrested under section 54 of the criminal procedure code 1898 and section 86 of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance, 1976. Many prisoners were detained for committing minor offences and many stayed beyond the sentence. Foreign prisoners are no exception to this.

8.Child Prisoners

There were 1,405 child prisoners in different jails by the end of 2004. Of them 35 percent were in 17 jails in Dhaka Division and 65 percent in 57 other jails. Another 234 child prisoners were in different correction centers. Among them 107 were in Tongi Correction Centre 86 in Jessore correction centre, 41 in Konabari correction Centre.22 The National Task force, constituted in 2003, instructed to take necessary measures to transfer the child prisoners from jails to the correction centers and also to take measures for improving their health while in prison. On August 3, 2004 the High Court Division ordered the government to submit a report within six months on the implementation of its earlier order to transfer the listed children to the correction centers. The court also ordered to fulfill the mandate of the children Act, 1974 and not to try child prisoners with adult accused. Under trial prisoners have the fundamental right to prompt trial, the court also observed. “The law requires that juveniles be held separately from adults, but in practice many juveniles were incarcerated with adults. Children were sometimes imprisoned (occasionally with their mothers) despite laws and court decisions prohibiting the imprisonment of minors.”

Case study

ASK and BLAST Vs. Bangladesh and others ,


BLAST, along with Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), filed a writ petition based on a news item published in the Daily Star on 09.04.2007 challenging the detention of 420 juvenile prisoners alongside adults in different jails around Bangladesh while the three Correctional Homes having accommodation capacity for 700 children had only 200 inmates.


The petitioners argued that detention of juvenile prisoners alongside adults violates Sections 48 and 55 of the Children Act, 1974; Rule 962 of the Bengal Jail Code; and the fundamental right to be treated in accordance with law under Article 31 of the Constitution. They also referred to Article 20 and 40 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990; Article 14(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966; the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985; the United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, 1900; and the Minimum Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, 1900.


The High Court issued a Rule Nisi on 24.07.2007 directing the respondents to take necessary steps to transfer the juveniles held in jails to Juvenile Development Centers and to show cause as to why their detention should not be declared illegal and without any lawful authority.

Laws Cited:

Constitution, Article 31; The Children Act, 1974 and Rules 1976; Probation of Offenders Ordinance, 1960 and Rules 1971; Bengal Jail Code

International Instruments Cited:

Convention on the Rights of the Child,1990; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966; Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985  United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, 1900; Minimum Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, 1900


The petitioners made an application for immediate transfer of juvenile detainees languishing in jail to correctional homes, or for release in appropriate cases, which was allowed on 17.07.2008. The Court ordered the respondents, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Social Welfare, Department of Social Services and Inspector General of Prisons to transfer juveniles to Correctional Homes. The juveniles have since been transferred to the Juvenile Development Centre pursuant to the Court order dated 17.07.2008. The case is pending for hearing.

10.Corruption in Prison Department:

Extortion by prison staff and corruption of the grounds is common. Given the extensive power that prison guards exercise over inmates, these problems are obvious. The poorly paid guards try to complement their regular earnings by exploiting the prisoners as bait for their friends and relatives.

11.Violence in prison

Violence is common at the prisons. Inmates on inmates violence is an unsurprising result of official slackness. By neglecting to take charge of the inmates within their facilities , by failing to act in response to incidences of violence, by wickedly allowing the entry of armament into the prisons and by generally abetting the domination of the strongest prisoners over the weakest, prison authorities are directly liable for the violence.

12.Recruitment and Training of Prison Officials

The recruitment and training of prison officers and staff under existing rules and procedures of prison officers and staff under existing rules and procedures are insufficient for the needs of prisoners.  Prison service in most developed countries are considered to be quite advanced as correction officers are educating offenders, as part of the effort to facilitate the reform and eventual reintegration of prisoners into society. This contrasts with the prison system in Bangladesh, which is geared towards containment and punishment of prisoners, and does not facilitate their reform. Hence, prison officers and staff are not recruited with appropriate skills nor trained adequately for proper reform .

13.Probleme releting women inmates:

A lots of problems are remaining in our prison system regarding female inmates. Sometimes there are sexually tortured by the prisons staff. Some female inmates are involved in illicit reletion with male prisoners or prison staff.Somedays ago a female inmates were prescribed as pregnant by medical officer of prison although there was no possibility to make any sexual relation with anyone. But it was happened. It was the talk of that time.With a view to improving the plight of women prisoners in jails the Supreme Court’s directives stated in Sheela barse v.Stae of Maharastra ,deserve particular mention. They are briefly stated as follows:-

             Female prisoners and suspects should be guarded by female guards or constables. Obviously, they should be separated from male wards.

             Interrogation of women should be carried out in presence of women officials.

             Intimation regarding arrest of a woman offender must be immediately given to her relatives.

             Information of such arrest must be immediately sent to the nearest Legal Aid Committee.

The female inmates are very minimal in number than the male inmates which shows that criminal behavior in female population of Bangladesh is not a widely spread phenomenon. This claim can be illustrated by the statistics given below  –

Division Prisoners waiting for trial (hajoti)   Convicted prisoners (Koedi)            Prisoners waiting for the execution of death sentences

Male      Female  Male      Female  Male      Female

Dhaka    20,242   907        8,494     252        413        15

Chittagong           16,764   589        5,443     134        178        2

Rajshahi 9,824     522        4,806     144        150        5

Khulna  9,210     340        5,139     173        176        1

Total      56,040   2,358     23,882   703        917        23

Date : July 29, 2007

  1. Torture in Prisons:

Torture in prisons is very common incident now-a-days. The Human Rights workers or Agencies are not permitted to work inside the prisons. As a result the real view of the prison’s inner side is always remaining in dark. But an aggrieved person can ensure his or her right to life & liberty through writ petition which is guaranteed by the Constitution. The Suprem Court of India held that “ mere detention is no ground for suspension of detenue’s fundamental rights”


Recommendation and Conclusion

Inorder to make the prison life less abnormal and provide better opportunities for rehabilitation of prisoners, the present prison system should be reformed. After the independence of Bangladesh a committee headed by the Chief Justice F K M Munim submitted recommendations to the government. In 2003 another committee was formed which has also submitted their recommendations. But there is no implementation of their recommendations. Here is a branch of proposal which are supposed to replace the existing problem of the prisons of Bangladesh.

11.1 Recommendations:

How to improve prison administration system of Bangladesh-

  1. The governing Laws of prison in our country are outdated. Such laws should be amended as early as possible. The Government of peoples Republic of Bangladesh has already taken initiative to modify the Jail Code. But it is not enough for the present prison and prison administration of our country. It is important to promote the concepts of prison reform and the protection of human rights and security of prisoners based on the evidence that such treatment is more effective than retributive treatment.
  2. We know that it is not possible for us to eradicate corruption from any Administration completely. But it can be decreased at a remarkable number. The corruption of prison officers and staffs should be stopped. Accountability and absence of arbitrariness can help to minimize such corruption. Check and balance in the prison administration in enjoying their power can also help to eradicate corruption and arbitrariness.
  3. Female prisoners and suspects should be guarded by female guards or constables. Obviously, they should be separated from male wards. Interrogation of women should be carried out in presence of women officials there should be separate prisons for female prisoners. Failing this, female wards should be completely separated by a partition wall from male prisoners. It is strongly felt that there should be separate prisons for adolescent convicts.
  4. No doubt, it is very much necessary for separation of juvenile’s convicts prisons. Although we have some separate juvenile prisons. But those are not enough for the increased number of juvenile convicts. Correctional programme for juvenile convicts should be modified. Realistic attempt should be taken for the natural flourishement of juvenile convicts.
  5. Open prison system can change our existing prison Administration. We know that we have some limitation to implement the concept of open prison system. Government should take primary steps in this regard and make a good plan to implement it gradually.
  6. As prison is a correctional centre in the modern senses, so every party relating to prison should be very sincere about their duties. Better monitoring of the performance of prison staff should be undertaken in order to remove anomalies existing in Prison administration.
  7. All prisoners under sentence should be required to work subject to their physical and mental fitness as determined medically. Work is not to be conceived as additional punishment but as a means of furthering the rehabilitation of the prisoners, their training for work, the forming of better work habits, and of preventing idleness and disorder.
  8. All prisoners have rights to access in proceedings of the Court. Prisoners should also be allowed to send complaints against prison officials directly to the Ministry of Home Affairs, without censorship by jail authorities.
  9. The system of visits should be improved so that it provides checks and balances on the administration of prisons. Vulnerable groups should be able to put forward their grievances to visitors for redress. Visitors should have free access to all classes of prisoners, except political Prisoners.
  10. The prison officers and staffs are not well paid. The conditions for prison officers and staff should be improved. Since prison officers are working under difficult circumstances they should be allowed better scales of pay and allowances, at a par with the police which can help to eradicate corruption from prison.
  11. For getting better service from the prisons officers and staffs, Government should establish prison staff training academy.
  12. The medical facility for the prisoners should be increased. Hospital should be established for all District jails. To improve the medical administration of the prisons, proper medical administration and equipments are recommended.
  13. There should be separated room for different criminal prisoners. The room should be separated considering the criminals age, past record of criminality and nature of his or her offence. The harden criminals should be separated from the new criminals.
  14. I am completely agreed with the Supreme Court of India that the prisoners’ rights should be protected by the court by its writ jurisdiction plus contempt power. To make this jurisdiction viable, free legal services to the prisoner’s programmes shall be promoted through recognized legal aid societies. The district bar shall keep a cell for prisoner’s relief.
  15. Vocational training facilities both for males & females should be updated so that they can find job opportunities upon release.
  16. Government should take proper steps to decrease the overcrowding problem in prison by establishing prisons building, increasing budget amount in prison system and taking technical action for minimizing of committing criminal offences from society. Considering the nature of offences and its grievousness, government can take action for applying Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in such offences.

11.2 Conclusion

Prisoners are human being, so humanitarian conduct towards them may help them to reform themselves. But present prison system is the main obstacle in the way of the reformation of the prisoners. By providing healthy environment, comfortable sleeping conditions, providing proper vocational training and education, providing healthy and hygienic food we can help them to rehabilite  themselves in the society. To modify the present prison system to correctional centre Government agencies as well as NGOs and civil society should come ahead. No prisoners will be the subject of any discrimination on the basis of race, colure, sex, or different opinion. Juvenile and women prisoners should be treated as properly. By ensuring all of these we can get a modern prison system which can uphold the humanity.