Locked away – a view of Mardan prison

Prison is not a pleasant place. No one likes to talk about it. When we hear the word, we think about a place where there is no life, but that’s not true.

The prison’s daily life is much like one spends inside a home territory.

Mardan Prison is the largest capacity prison in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It houses more than 1700 female, male, & juvenile prisoners. Some women have their small children inside prison as well and prison department provides these small kids milk & food free of cost. The children of these female inmates receive proper education and also learning computer as well.

Life for the female inmates in this Mardan prison is reflective domesticity one can imagine in any ordinary home. One of the senior female prisoners expressed that, “The most important thing to keep in mind for every prisoner is to expect that things will not go as planned inside prison as it is prison and we have to change our self-according to rules and regulations of the territory.”

Inside Mardan prison there are health facilities for every prisoner, there is proper hospital for the inmates and a psychiatrist is also available for counseling. Three meals are provided to all prisoners daily free of cost.

Living area of these prisoners is called a “Barak” in Pakistan.

In every barrack there is one Numberdaar (a senior prisoner who looks after other fellow prisoners in the night. The numberdaar acts like a Proctor of the Barak.

All prisoners are responsible for keeping their bed and barak clean. They are allowed to take some essentials with them inside barracks like toiletries, soap, shampoo, clothing, footwear, bedding, writing paper, and books. Some of the prisoners have a radio as well. In every Barak there is a television for all prisoners and they have specified time to watch it together.

Inside prison prohibited and restricted items would be weapons, drugs, flammable substances, explosives, cutting instruments, false identification, passports, mobile phones, modems, scanners, alcohol, tobacco and other smoking related products (including cigarette lighters, matches), unauthorized keys, or any other item that might endanger others or assist in an escape.

While in jail any prisoner can have some money (given by their family members when they come to meet them inside prison) and they can buy permitted items. Members of the family may come to meet their inmate relatives on a specific meeting days.

A prisoner’s daily day routine is highly structured, with specific times for meal, religious lectures, education classes, recreational and hobby programs, games and television viewing.

Another female prisoner who recently gets her sentence stated, “While in prison it’s important you maintain good relations with your fellow prisoners,” she, however, woefully added, “in our society, when a man commits crime and goes to prison, family members go to meet him and give him good wishes. But if a women commits the same crime and gets inside a prison, the family feels ashamed while visiting her as people taunt them by saying that oh look they are going to meet the “Mujrim”a word used in Pashto for prisoner.”

Another young prisoner said, “Although inside prison I’m satisfied because now these all prisoners are like my mothers, daughters and sisters but blood relatives are something else. Prison department provide us all basic facilities we can play badminton and carom in evening, although 3 times food are provided but still we can cook at our own wish. We are getting education as well our female section assistant jail superintendent Miss “Rabia” daily ask us about our problems and tries to solve those problem. Jail superintendent “Fazal Hameed” also visits male, female and juvenile sections of the prison and communicate with us. I own this place like a home now as they are like family.”

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