The Government is currently looking at how international guidelines could be used to upgrade the state of prisons in the country, Commissioner of Prisons (Operations, Intelligence and Security), H.M.T.N. Upuldeniya said.

Accordingly, the Government is planning the relocation of prisons as the ones available are old ones which were not up to the international standards, he explained, adding that overcrowding would be tackled along with the health issues of prisoners. “Earlier prison hospitals liaised with the relevant Provincial hospital, yet now we have centralized the system by putting in place a mechanism where we have appointed a prisons’ health director who oversees all prison hospitals and their directors,” he added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informed that prison reforms to provide for better conditions for people in detention would have to be proposed by the Government of Sri Lanka and would have to be in accordance with international norms and standards and best practices.

Spokesperson of the ICRC (Sri Lanka – Colombo), Sarasi Wijeratne said that these would have to sit well with the domestic laws.

If any causes for concern are observed during visits to the prisons and places of detention conducted by the ICRC, we will inform them confidentially to the prison authorities, she noted, adding that the ICRC’s mandate and aim was to help the authorities to provide adequate conditions of detention and humane treatment for all detainees.

This week, Sri Lanka hosted the a forum third Asia-Pacific Regional Correctional Managers Conference, organized by the Department of Prisons, on the theme ‘Balancing Security and Humanitarian Needs in Prisons’. The forum on improving conditions in prisons focused on discussions concerning the classification of detainees, the design of prisons, the specific needs of women, trends in healthcare, medical ethics, and strategic planning for change. The participants at the Conference will have to formulate and recommend reforms that will make prisons more effective correctional centres.
(RL J)