Nepal's crime and punishment system remains stuck in the middle ages. There is no progress especially in the rehabilitation of prisoners. Houses erected during the Rana regime are still being used as prisons. The roofs leak and the cold is unbearable in the winter. Men and women are often kept in the same cells due to lack of space. Even the central jail in the capital is no different. The facilities and services available inside the prisons have not progressed since the time of Chandra Shumsher. Physical and psychological problems are common among the prisoners.
It is not that there haven't been commissions to improve the standards of the jails. Commissions are made, proposals are drawn up, but no action is taken. In this way, more than half a dozen proposals have been drawn up only to be shunted aside. In a failing country like ours, this is just another significant problem.
Since the Jana Andolan II, even the jails have become centres for protests and hunger strikes. There have been clashes between the prisoners and guards. With these problems in mind, the government created a seven-member commission to investigate the prison problem. The seven-party government decided to implement the actions suggested by the commission, but rather than being done to uphold the ideals of justice and loktantra, this seems to have been under pressure from the prisoners.
The government's plans for improvements tie in with their plans to grant a general pardon to 50 percent of all prisoners. For serious crimes, prisoners who have served two thirds of their jail term, and for minor crimes, those who have served one third of their term, are eligible for a pardon.
Currently, there are 600 foreigners and 600 women prisoners out of a total of 7,000 prisoners in the jails. What kind of message would this pardoning send to other potential criminals? The government's efforts should be aimed at changing the hell-like living conditions and the medieval Berber thinking that runs these prisons.