Survey Reveals 1,871 Prison Officers Mentally Unfit
By Paneetha Ameresekere
A survey conducted by the Health Ministry in 2018 revealed that 33 per cent, or a third of prison officers suffer from depression, the Prisons Department, in a recent report titled ‘Prison Reforms-Five Year Plan (2021-2025),’ said.
There was a total of 5,670 prison officials serving in the Department as at end 2019. Therefore, 33 per cent of that number is equivalent to 1,871.
“If the correctional officers are not in a good mental condition or if they are not doing the job satisfactorily, they will not be able to provide a quality service,” the report warned.
Meanwhile, in order to solve the security issues that arise in escorting special categories of prisoners to Courts, the report recommended the setting-up of secured Court halls in the vicinity of the main prisons and to extend the remand days at such places, instead of having to cart back such prisoners once more to prison once the Court proceedings are over, as a way out.
“Extending remand days through video technology could also be practised, rather than having those prisoners to be physically presented in Courts,” the report further recommended.
Introduction of modern technology to minimise the entry of prohibited substances into prisons will facilitate systematic monitoring including having in place mobile phones jamming systems, CCTVs, body scanners, parcel scanners, etc., it further said.
At present, there are various issues regarding prison’s security. Security of prisons has been threatened, especially by the entry of drugs and mobile phones into prisons. Apart from prisons officers, it is also possible for ‘normal’ prisoners to suffer because of the dominance of various gangs in prisons, the report said.
Prison officials also face threats from inmates suspected of organised crimes and drug trafficking which is a challenge to prison security. Therefore, the internal security as well as the external security of the prisons should be ensured. Commitment, training and knowledge enhancement of prison officers are very important in this regard, it said.
Additionally, prisons intelligence should be strengthened, the report recommended. Further, intelligence data should be collected and reported to the Commissioner General through Commissioner of Prisons and security measures have to be taken accordingly. This division has to collect and analyse the information of detainees as well as prison officers, the report said.
It is also important to keep in touch with other State intelligence agencies as the data on the activities of inmates and their links with people in the society is important to the security of the country, it added.