Manama: Bahrain’s main prison is operating at 33 per cent over capacity and authorities should promptly step in to reduce the overcrowding, an official report said.
The prison in Jaw held 1,608 prisoners, but had a capacity of only 1,201, according to the report drafted by the country’s Ombudsman following a three-day visit from September 3-5 to the facility in the south of Bahrain.
The report urged authorities to separate prisoners aged between 15 and 18 from other categories and to install surveillance cameras in all buildings, corridors and wards.
“We used standards and criteria that will consolidate the professionalism of our tasks within a general framework that includes respect for human rights, the consolidation of justice and rule of law and the strengthening of public trust,” Nawaf Al Mouawda, the Ombudsman, told the media in the capital Manama.
“The standards and criteria modelled after international [ones] are our principal references,” he said.
The visits are in line with the implementation of Recommendations 1717 and 1722, paragraph (d), issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), the international fact-finding panel that looked into the events that occurred in February and March 2011 and published a report with a set of recommendations in November the same year.
Standards adopted and followed by the ombudsman under the section of treatment and conditions included respect, safety, legal use of force, physical conditions, prisoner or detainee care, ensuring prisoners or detainees are offered sufficient food and drink, prisoners or detainees are offered outside exercise, reading materials and the opportunity to have visits and calls, prisoner or detainee transportation, rehabilitation, learning and work and skills activities.
Standards under the section of individual rights included the legality of imprisonment or detention and ensuring prisoners or detainees who have difficulty communicating are adequately provided for.
Under the healthcare section, the standards to be upheld were health services, patient care, and making sure prisoners or detainees receive prescribed medication and psychological health care.
Osama Ahmad Al Asfoor, the Deputy to the Ombudsman, said that the criteria and standards were used for the first time during the visit to the Rehabilitation and Correction in Jaw.
“A team from the ombudsman assessed the implementation of the criteria related to humane treatment, the conditions of the centres, the legal rights and guarantees of the detainees and the health care available,” he said.
The team interviewed prisoners, detainees and staff on a number of issues to assess the implementation of the criteria and standards, he said.
The team also had access to documents, records, information and statistics that helped the members with drafting the report.
“Our report included a set of general recommendations and special healthcare recommendations,” Al Asfoor said.
The Ombudsman was formally launched in July.
1. Take urgent action to address the problem of overcrowding in cells. It must be reiterated that the at the time of inspection the facility held 1,608 prisoners where its maximum intended capacity was 1,201 only.
2. Separate prisoners aged between 15 and 18 years old from the other categories and find ways to treat them in a manner that meet their diverse needs.
3. Draft rules that specify the methods and cases of prisoners’ searches. A team should be trained in accordance with these rules.
4. Modify the copies of regulations and instructions received by prisoners so as to clarify their rights and obligations clearly and adequately.
5. Set up clear and specific procedures on complaints, grievances and the protection of complainants.
6. Install surveillance cameras in all buildings, corridors and wards, according to the international standards in this regard.
7. Draft written rules to regulate telephones calls and increase the number of phone booths.
8. Maintain and renovating the wards and facilities periodically.
9. Allocate classrooms to enable students to continue their education, with the adoption of incentives to encourage them to carry on with their learning.
10. Allocate rehabilitation and productive classes to use the prisoners’ energies and skills. All prisoners should be included in the programmes, regardless of whether their terms are short or long.
11. Hold specialised training sessions for all staff to boost their aptitude to deal with prisoners
12. Increase the number of staff dealing with prisoners and appointing social workers.
13. Take the necessary measures to ensure the food supplier/caterer commitment to supply various varieties of foods according to the contract, taking into account the conditions of prisoners with special diets.
Special healthcare recommendations
1. Increase the number of doctors, nurses and administrative staff in the clinic.
2. Take the necessary measures to raise the level of cleanliness in the clinic.
3. Ensure the maintenance and periodic update of medical devices and equipment
4. Develop a mechanism to enable diabetic patients to receive insulin injections.
5. Extend the periods of work in the pharmacy to meet the needs of the clinic