Sri Lanka prisons over-crowded ‘hell-holes’

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s prison system is holding 22,000 inmates though the system is designed to have only 8,000 persons making them overcrowded hell holes, and cases over petty crimes are dragged on for years, legislators said.

"In our area, the main plea of suspects is not to remand them at the Wariyapola prison," opposition legislator Anura Yapa, a lawyer and former minsiter told parliament.

"That prison should have about 350 inmates but I think about 1,900 are there. It is an hell-hole (apayak)."

Legislator said in some remand prisons were so overcrowded that there was no space for inmates to sleep.

Legislators called on the minister of justice to get funding to improve the conditions in prisons and expand them.

Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale said the prisons system was designed to hold 8,000 inmates but 22,000 were there.

Foreign minister Tilak Marapone, a former attorney general said more than 90 percent of the inmates of remand prisons were held for small offences.

"People are remanded for having a ganja suruttu (weed cigarettes) and petty assaults," he said.

He said it took up to 10 years for a case to be heard and magisterial inquiry took about 4 years.

"People are remanded or asked to come to court every two weeks," Marapone said. "We should bring a process where it is made compulsory to complete investigations and finish the case in one year.





"These are simple cases which should not take four years to inquire. It the case is then heard at a higher court it will take about 8 years.

"By this time the defendant had run out of money to pay for lawyers and he is in a helpless position."

He did not say whether the time spent in remand was greater than the maximum sentence for the alleged offence.

Marapone said a law should be considered compelling police to investigate petty crimes within one year and get special permission to extend the case, or even terminate the case altogether.

"At the moment justice not served for anyone," he said. (Colombo/Apr01/2019)

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