Prisoners right to health care: Bangladesh perspective

 

In Bangladesh, prisoners are deprived of their rights in jail. Though they are also citizens of our country but they are neglected in various perspective just because of they are prisoner. Among those rights, prisoners are mostly deprived of their right to health care which is very basic necessity of a person and also guaranteed in the Constitution of Bangladesh irrespective of identify of a person. In Article32, right to life and in article 35, the right not to be subjected to degrading treatment are inalienable rights of any citizen under the Constitution of Bangladesh. Aim of administration of justice through jail is to reform the offenders. But current situation of jails in Bangladesh are so mismanaged that people sometimes become heinous criminal after jail life due to lacking basic necessities.

In Bangladeshi prison, there is serious shortage of medical facilities. Only 16 doctors against 77 posts are looks after about 90,000 people in jail all over the country. Hospital facilities are available only in twelve prisons and the remaining lacks any such health service facilities with ambulance and emergency service. In prison, not only the general prisoners, everyone suffers because of the shortage of doctors and other health care facilities. The main medical conditions for which prisoners are treated include diarrhoea and dysentery (42% of cases), fever, including typhoid fever (25%), skin diseases (20%), malnutrition (8%), psychological problems (1.5%), and heart problems (1%). The high frequency of diarrhoea and skin diseases is due to the poor sanitary conditions prevailing inside the prisons.

Under section 13, of the Prisons Act 1894,  all prisoners need to be examined by the Medical officer and the Medical Officer will cause to give effect the class of labour he is fit for if sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. Again, a person punishing a solitary confinement will be caused to be visited by a medical officer in every 24 hours. To tell about the employment of the prisoners the prisoners needs to be kept in work for more than 9 hours except with emergency. This punishment is no doubt a scrupulous and inhumane. The prisoners punished to rigorous imprisonment can be punished by the Superintendent. If a prisoner desire to see or consult a Medical Officer after notifying, the jailor shall immediately inform the superintendent and the superintendent shall immediately treat any such prisoner. The hospital facilities are also provided in the law.

 

Under the Jail Code 1864 there are excellent rules for the medical facilities, though whether the rules are maintained or not is a secondary question. According to the law, in any case of sickness an immediate notice shall be given by the guard to the Head warden on duty by passing the word from sentry to sentry. The Head warden shall at once report the case to the Sub-Assistant surgeon, who shall visit the cell, and if necessary, remove the prisoner to hospital, and inform the superintendent, Medical Officer and jailor of the circumstance at their next visit. Regarding the Judicial Solitary confinement, a prisoner shall not be placed in such imprisonment until he has been certified by the Medical officer as fit for such confinement. Sometimes prisoners remain in jail although their imprisonment is completed under law. This tendency to not release them from jail should be strongly banned.

As per Section 31 of Prisoners Act 1894 , a civil prisoner or an convicted criminal prisoner shall be permitted to maintain himself, and to purchase, or receive from private sources at proper hours, food, clothing, bedding or other necessaries, but subject to examination and to such rules as may be approved by the Inspector General. But there is no implementation in Bangladesh prison system.

 

Bangladesh jail authority should provide a proper diet plan for prisoner, as prisoner’s breakfast is salt and rice, mid-day meal is dal and rice and night meal is the same. Providing khichuri instead of dal and rice could be a good option.

 

It is evident that society has embraced the concept that, when incarcerated, a person can’t see to his or her own medical needs, and therefore, society must do so. Health care is given to prisoners for social reasons too. The vast majority of inmates will return to society within a few years. Proper care helps to preserve their physical function, which makes it possible for ex-inmates reintegrating into society to embark on productive activities and avoid becoming a burden to all. Traditionally health falls within the private, rather than public, realm. So finally, as a human all the prisoners have rights to be treated as humans and must enjoy right of health care they have under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

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Aasma Noushat

LL.B (Hons) Department of Law University of Chittagong

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