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'Prisons and Correctional Services Act' likely in 2018: Anisul

DHAKA, March 14, 2018 (BSS) - Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq today said government is planning to promulgate a new "Prisons and Correctional Services Act" in 2018.

"This act will put rehabilitation of prisoners at the core of our prison delivery. It will require new and innovative support to build the capacity of our officers, but also to explore partnerships with external actors," he said.

The minister came up with the observations while addressing a planning workshop of Rule of Law Programme jointly organized by Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Prison Directorate and German Development Cooperation (GIZ) at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) in the capital.

"We need to continue to divert minor cases to the informal justice system whilst speeding up the formal system and reducing the high number of un-tried detainees in our prisons. Our courts, police and prisons are spending far too much time and resources focusing on high-frequency and short-term prisoners, turning prisons into a revolving door, with little scope for rehabilitation or preventing re-offending," Anisul added.

The law minister in his speech said the volume of outstanding cases in different courts is growing by the day, which is around 3.3 million right now, and the spill over into prisons is enormous.

"I have come to believe, without adequate focus on diversion, minor cases will continue to overwhelm our courts and prisons. We need to think about ADR more strongly in our policy discussions," he said.

Terming increasing legal aid and bring it closer to people as a big priority for him, Anisul said it is encouraging that the National Legal Aid Services Organization (NLASO) will partner with paralegal support to maximize benefit and to learn from each other.

"Technology has assisted in a review of the whole justice system and we await the results of the countrywide justice audit that will be available in a few months. Together with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, we will strengthen our reporting on progress towards SDG 16 through the findings of the justice audit," the law minister added.

Head of Rule of Programme Promita Sengupta delivered welcome speech at the workshop, which was addressed by Inspector General of Prisons Brigadier General Syed Iftekhar Uddin, Law and Justice Division Secretary ASSM Zahirul Haque and Secretary of Security and Service Division of Ministry of Home Affairs Farid Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, among others.

Presentations on relevant matters were made by GIZ Senior Advisor Arlett Stojanovic, joint secretary (opinion) of Law Ministry Ummey Kulsum and deputy chief of Security and Service Division Mizanur Rahman.