'Jails are for reflection and rehabilitation, not punishment'.

 
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Byline: Faiza Ilyas

KARACHI -- Discussing methodologies to reintegrate young prisoners back into society and the role various stakeholders could play in this respect, participants in a consultation held on Tuesday called for upgrading prisons currently heavily over-crowded and functioning with limited resources and poor infrastructure.

Prisons, they said, were not fulfilling the role of 'correctional facilities' and offered few structural programmes for under-trial prisoners and women.

Organised by Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child (Sparc) in consultation with the Sindh Prisons Department, the event focused on a UNDP (United Nations DeveloApment Programme) project - Economic Rehabilitation and Reintegration Support to Young People in Prisons.

Highlighting the need for the project, Sparc executive director Sajjad Cheema said that the organisation would implement this project in collaboration with the prisons department.

'A holistic pilot programme would be launched with an aim to equip young prisoners in the age-group of 15 to 29 with tools that could help them rehabilitate and reintegrate in society once they are released,' he said, adding that the programme would cover the Malir prison, women's prison and the adjoining Youthful Offenders Industrial School (YOIS).

He informed the audience that at present no specific programmes were available for youth in prisons, which was due to lack of specialised personnel with proper knowledge of the rights of young people and women.

On the social stigma associated with prison, Mr Cheema said this pressing subject had largely remained ignored. Young people, especially females, he said, faced acceptance issues in society after having a jail record against their name.

He emphasised the need for equipping youth with vocational training and providing them psychological counselling so that they were able to cope with societal pressures once they were home.

Speaking about the factors making youth vulnerable to extremism, Sparc project manager Shumaila Waheed said the organisation's experience of working with youth, especially in Karachi, showed that extremist organisations targeted impressionable youth to instill hatred and divisive narratives into them.

Youth who ended up in jails, she said, were in need of specialised programmes to build sustainable counter narratives that would prevent liberated prisoners from slipping back into the same vicious cycle of violent extremism.

'The organisation...

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