The 150-year-old Prisons Act, a vestige of the colonial times, and the Jail Code are being amended and hopefully the new laws will be passed within this year in parliament, Inspector General (IG) of Prisons Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin.
Jail authorities have also confirmed that the process to finalize the amendments in the current act, formulated in 1894, is already halfway.
Once all the proposed amendments are finalized, the act and the Jail Code, introduced in 1864, will be sent to the Law Ministry for approval. After they are approved, they will go to the Cabinet for its nod and then finally to the parliament for passage.
Briefing reporters for Prison Week 2018 at the prisons headquarters at Bakshibazar, Dhaka on Sunday, the top prison officer said once the new laws pass, it would be possible to develop the prisons into reformatories.
“We are preparing the draft of the amended Prisons Act first. The Jail Code’s amendments will be made in line with the new Prisons Act. Then we will formulate the amended Prisoners Act and other related laws,” he said.
Syed Iftekhar Uddin said the existing Prisons Act was being amended to bring dynamism and make it time befitting.
If the amended Prisons Act is passed after necessary amendments, there will be a lot of benefits. Judges will be able to take testimonies of the prisoners from prison and the inmates will be able to talk to their family members over mobile phone.
Iftekhar said the jail authorities have also taken initiative to set up luggage and body scanners inside every jail across Bangladesh to prevent entry of illegal drugs inside the prisons.
"Despite strict security, illegal drug is entering the jails. After completion of setting up luggage and body scanners inside the prisons, entry of illegal drugs will be stopped," the IG of prisons said replying to a question.
Prison Week 2018 is set to begin on March 20 at Kashimpur Prison Complex in Gazipur. President Md Abdul Hamid will formally inaugurate the week.
Iftekhar said the authorities failed to stop smuggling of drugs inside the jails due to lack of adequate manpower.
A total of 77,124 prisoners were being kept in 68 jails around the country against a total capacity of 36,614, he said. “Of the prisoners, 35.97% inmates were behind bars in drug related cases.
“Various types of drugs are entering the jails in unique ways – like inside onion sacks, toothpaste, soap, collars of shirts worn by prisoners and even inside chilly powders.”
He hoped smuggling of illegal drug inside the prisons would be stopped after completion of setting up scanners in the jails.
About allegation of a section of prison guards being involved in the smugglings, the IG said 20 guards, who were allegedly involved, were identified last year. Of them, three were dismissed from the service, while departmental proceedings against others were underway, he added.
About Prison Week 2018, Iftekhar said, the purpose of this week was to create friendly relations between prisoners and guards as well as to remove common people’s negative ideas about the prisons.