Sharjah: Construction work for the second phase of the new central jail being built at a cost of Dh400 million in Sharjah’s Al Ramtha area will be completed by the end of this year, the authorities said.
The new facility’s design has been done for it to accommodate rehabilitation programmes for inmates so that they can lead a productive life after serving their term. The second phase includes construction of a block for male inmates, an administrative block and workshops, Brigadier Ahmad Shuhail, Director-General of Sharjah Punitive and Rehabilitation Establishments, told Gulf News in exclusive interview.
The second phase itself is divided into two phases — demolition of the old site and construction of the new blocks.
The entire new jail complex will comprise an administrative building, separate buildings for men, women and juveniles, and workshops. The block comprising the rest of the halls will be built in the third phase.
The first phase of the new Sharjah Central Jail was inaugurated in January 2017. When completed, the new jail will offer inmates spacious cells and halls with adequate facilities, police said.
In the past, only families of inmates inside the country could visit them, but now, inmates whose families live outside the UAE can also enjoy these virtual visits
The priority is to keep the prison clean and in a healthy condition and have rehabilitation programmes that prevent inmates from returning to a life of crime, Brigadier Shuhail said, noting that all rehabilitation programmes carried out at the central jail aim to make inmates aware of the mistakes they committed.
The inmates are assigned daily activities, depending on which rehabilitation programme they have been assigned to undertake. The rehabilitation programme can be either occupational workshops or the inmates may be given the opportunity to continue with their education. The academic opportunities include computer classes, tourism courses or religious programmes such as memorising the Holy Quran.
The prisoners also get breaks when they can spend some time on the exercise ground, borrow books from the library and read, participate in sporting activities or watch television.
Brigadier Shuhail explained how the Sharjah Government paid attention to requests from the inmates and their families through a memorandum signed between Sharjah Police and a number of partners including Ayadi, Sharjah Charity Association and Emirates Red Crescent to conduct rehabilitation programmes and initiatives.
The correctional facility runs a competition among inmates to ensure the cells are kept clean. So every month one cell is chosen as the cleanest and the inmates of that cell are granted the privilege to make three requests (like ordering food from outside).
Unique wooden mosque
A unique wooden mosque and majlis were opened recently for the employees of Sharjah Punitive and Rehabilitation Establishment as well for visitors. The mosque and the majlis are made entirely from recycled wood. Designed in the workshop of the Punitive and Rehabilitation Establishment, the mosque was transported and placed in the employees’ accommodation located in the Punitive and Rehabilitation Establishment, while the majlis was placed at the entrance to the facility.
A total of six inmates took part in building the wooden mosque and it took two months to finish the work. Six other inmates worked for a month to build the wooden majlis.
The mosque has a capacity for 30 people at a time and employees from the police force have been performing prayers in the mosque regularly. The mosques is open only at prayer times and closed thereafter as a precaution against COVID-19.
All necessary preventive and precautionary health-care measures are implemented at the entire establishment. The entire facility is disinfected three times daily, in addition to the installation of several smart disinfection tunnels that employees, inmates and visitors are made to walk through. These smart disinfection tunnels have been installed at various places in the facility.
COVID-19 tests for inmates
Regular coronavirus tests for all inmates, workers and wardens at the jail, as well as the precautionary measures being followed, have prevented COVID-19 from spreading within the jail, Brigadier Shuhail said.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many prisons around the world are struggling to implement precautionary measures, but Sharjah has set a rare example by testing all inmates and implementing strict measures successfully.
Brigadier Shuhail said the facility conducted Polymerase Chain Reaction tests on all inmates to make sure they didn’t have the virus. “Strict precautionary measures since the outbreak helped prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside the prison’s wards and facilities,” Brigadier Shuhail said. “A long list of measures was undertaken by Sharjah Police to ensure the safeguard of human rights and the health of the inmates during COVID-19,” he added.
Beside the inmates, all of the prison’s cleaners, employees of catering companies that provide meals to the prisoners and policemen have also had regular tests.
The measures — including thermal screening, disinfecting the wards and prison facilities and providing new masks and gloves to the inmates on a daily basis — helped ensure safety for all.
Craft and study still possible
Despite the strict measures, inmates can still visit the crafts workshops to learn new skills. The prison’s craft centre, however, has reduced its capacity as a precautionary measure against the pandemic. Inmates are allowed afternoon breaks and are paid overtime fees in keeping with UAE Labour Law.
Inmates can also still study through e-learning in groups, keeping a safe social distance.
Brigadier Shuhail said that inmates who committed serious crimes should have three PCR tests before entering the prison’s wards. Once they are inside the prison, they have to stay in quarantine for two weeks. Thereafter, they are moved to isolation rooms where they have to stay for two more weeks, before being finally moved to the cells.
Brigadier Shuhail said the prison has a quarantine building equipped and ready to welcome any suspected cases.
Use of technology inside the prison
From behind a glass, sound-proofed door, inmates can communicate with their families — thanks to a remote visual communication service.
Brigadier Suhail said the new service is a humanitarian initiative that enables Sharjah inmates to communicate with their families, both inside as well as outside the UAE.
Inmates wearing gloves and masks were seen speaking to their families through video calls after visitors were stopped from coming to the jail due to the pandemic.
“The service was launched as per the directives of Major General Saif Ziri Al Shamsi, Commander-in-Chief of Sharjah Police, as part of a humanitarian initiative that enables Sharjah inmates to communicate with their families in a way that achieves the principle of physical distancing with a full commitment to the precautionary and preventive measures,” Brigadier Shuhail informed.
Video conference with families
Each inmate can make a request to the prison to speak to any family member [should be a first-degree relative]. After approval, a link is sent to the family to have a meeting.
“We are planning to extend this service even after the crisis ends,” he added. “In the past, only families of inmates inside the country could visit them, but now, inmates whose families live outside the UAE can also enjoy these virtual visits.”
The use of video conferencing systems is yet another way in which the authorities are trying to prevent the spread of the disease in the prison premises.
He said that during COVID-19, inmates can be prosecuted and made to stand trial via remote court hearings through video conferencing.