Full Name: District Jail, Lahore
Address: Shadman 1, Shadman, Lahore 54000
1. How many people are currently detained in the center and what is the centre’s maximum capacity?
There were around 3,000 prisoners incarcerated at District Jail, Lahore also known as Camp Jail when the first prisoner tested positive for Covid on March 23. However, many prisoners were transferred to other jails after that and presently there are around 1,600 prisoners incarcerated there. But the jail is only meant to house 1,050 prisoners and remains grossly overcrowded.
2. Are people still entering this detention centre? If so, what are the measures taken to prevent contagion and safeguard their right to health?
Camp Jail is not admitting any new prisoners. All new prisoners are being taken to Central Jail, Lahore also known as Kot Lakhpat prison.
We have serious concerns about the health and hygiene of the prisoners there but the officials claim to have taken some measures. It is, however, impossible to corroborate their version in the absence of any independent oversight.
A spokesperson of the Punjab prisons department told The Express Tribune that precautionary measures were being taken as per the directives of the Punjab Home Department to prevent the spread of the virus among prisoners. The spokesperson said the premises where the first Covid-positive detainee was kept had been locked down and those who came in contact with him had been quarantined. The compound where the case was reported has been sterilised with chlorine spray. Pesticides, hand sanitizers, soaps, gloves and masks are also provided on the way in and out of prison.
According to Dunya news, sources in the jail said the facility has been turned into a hospital and many corona positive prisoners are being treated there. A quarantine ward has also been built to isolate prisoners, but there is no ventilator there so prisoners whose conditions get worse are shifted to either Mayo or Services hospitals of Lahore.
3. Have detainees been released from this centre due to COVID-19? If yes, which groups?
After the first case of Covid-19 was reported in a prisoner at Camp Jail on March 23, as many as 1,000 inmates were shifted to other jails of the province. By April 6, there were as many as 50 cases of Covid-19 reported from the prison. However, while many prisoners are being transferred, there are no reports that any of them have been released after the breakout.
4. What information has been provided to detainees in this centre, in which language(s) and through what means?
The Ministry of Human Rights has informed the Supreme Court that ‘panaflexes containing awareness on Covid-19 have been displayed in prisons’. No other details were provided.
5. What healthcare measures have been taken in response to the virus? Has the number of health workers working inside the center increased?
The authorities have established a temporary 100-bed hospital for prisoners at the jail premises but it is not clear how many health professionals are currently serving there. Refer to Answer 2 for more details.
6. What hygiene measures have been taken in response to the virus?
Refer to Answer 2.
7. What measures have been taken to comply with necessary social distancing requirements?
A quarantine centre has been established for affected prisoners. But social distancing is near impossible in a prison as overcrowded as District Jail.
8. What measures have been taken to ensure that detainees continue to maintain contact with their family and friends in such a difficult time?
Visits have been banned in all jails of Punjab and families have expressed concerns about their loved ones being at heightened risk of contracting Covid-19 and not being able to see or meet them.
9. Are NGOs, monitors and/or volunteers continuing to enter in detention and meet detainees? If yes, what measures have been put in place to ensure their health protection? If no, what measures have been put in place to ensure that detainees continue to receive the kind of support they used to receive from these groups?
No NGOs or independent researchers/journalists are allowed to visit the prison generally without specific permissions, but the prohibition is being enforced even more strictly now. In the absence of visits, rights organisations are suggesting provincial governments to facilitate the prisoners with video link capabilities.
10. What measures have been taken to protect vulnerable groups (e.g., victims of gender violence and torture; people facing mental health challenges)?
There is no information about specific measures taken to safeguard those who cannot fully care for themselves.
However, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered on April 7 that under-trial prisoners for offences with sentences shorter than 3 years would be eligible to be released on bail. The prisoners who would benefit from this would be women, juveniles, prisoners above the age of 55, and the mentally ill and physically disabled. However, those involved in violence and abuse against women and children would not be released.
11. What measures have been taken to protect staff working with detainees? Has there been an increase or decrease in the number of staff since the COVID-19 crisis started?
The staff that was in contact with the prisoner was tested but none of them have contracted the virus. The medical staff of Punjab’s prisons, including at Camp Jail, have been trained. The specifics of these trainings, however, have not been made public.
12. What kind of legal measures are individuals and/or organisations pursuing in response to COVID?
There have been various efforts on part of individuals and organisations to combat the Covid-19 pandemic on the legal front. There have been a number of petitions and submissions filed in courts arguing that the measures taken by the government are inadequate. The petitions argue, inter alia, to enforce the rights of prisoners in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, to declare a national public health emergency, to order the government to start rigorous testing, and to order the release of eligible prisoners from jails across the country.