Irregularities and corruption at jails cannot be reined in as a section of top officials allegedly condone illegal activities, according to a government investigation.
The investigation says deputy inspectors general (DIG) at the department of prisons never look into irregularities and corruption in the jails. On the contrary, they take illegal benefits by condoning such practices.
It is easily understandable why top officials do not enquire irregularities, the investigation team observed.
Sources at the department of prisons said the home ministry received innumerable reports of corruption and irregularities in the jails.
The home ministry’s public security division secretary Md Shahiduzzaman last November formed a two-member probe body headed by additional secretary (jail wing) Syed Belal Hossain to investigate irregularities and corruption in the jails.
The committee submitted its report last December.
Speaking to Prothom Alo about the jail irregularities, home minister Asaduzzaman said, “I have asked the department of prisons to take the matter seriously and act accordingly.”
District jails are under the control of DIGs (prisons).
DIG of Jashore is in charge of the management of Kushtia jail.
On 6 October, he inspected Kushtia jail but did not find any irregularities or corruption.
He had positive observations about the jail canteen which is reportedly plagued with corruption.
On November 16-17, the home ministry investigation team inspected Kushtia jail. The team found evidence of irregularities against 44 officials and employees including jail super Zaker Hossain and recently retired jailer SM Mohiuddin.
The team found various irregularities including corruption in the jail canteen, 'buying and selling' of prisoners, admission of healthy prisoners to hospital in exchange of money, bribery to meet prisoners and and also to arrange bail.
These irregularities continue under the charge of the superintendent of jail. Chief jail guard, CID jail guard and the superintendent of jail share money earned through irregularities and corruption.
Like the DIG of Jashore, the DIGs (prisons) of all divisions are similarly corrupt.
The investigation team reports that the DIG of Dhaka inspected Narsingdi jail on 28 August, Barishal DIG inspect Barishal central jail on 2 March, Sylhet DIG inspected Moulvibazar district jail on 24 October, Mymensingh inspected Jamalpur district jail on 27 August and Rangpur DIG inspected Rangpur central jail on 16 October.
In the inspection reports of DIGs, no mention has been made about the corruption or irregularities at these jails.
DIGs (prisons) have no comment about irregularities at canteens, prisoner trade, bribery to meet prisoners, for food and seats, for medical treatment and so on.
According to them, everything is in order. It is clear that a vested interest quarters control the irregularities and corruption at jails.
The home ministry investigation team believes that DIGs are naturally involved with the vested quarter.
The committee investigated alleged irregularities of Rajshahi central jail last year. It found evidence of corruption and irregularities against 86 officials and employees including Rajshahi prison DIG Altaf Hossain, senior jail super Halima Khatun, jailer Habibur Rahman and deputy jailer Saiful Islam.
In the report, it was said that DIG (Prisons) did not take any effective steps against irregularities like prison trade and healthy prisoners being allowed to move to hospital in exchange of money.
On the contrary, he showed negligence of duty and also misused his power. Eight jail guards work at the DIG residence, six in the jail superintendent's residence and six in the jailer's residence and four in the deputy jailer’s residence, which is illegal.
Another investigation committee found evidence of irregularities and corruption against 49 officials and staff including the then DIG Partha Gopal Banik, senior superintendent of jail Prashanta Kumar Banik, senior superintendent of jail Iqbal Kabir Chowdhury, jailer Sohel Rana Biswas and seven deputy jailors while investigating the corruption of a jailer at Chattogram central jail.
On 26 October 2018, railway police arrested Sohel Rana Biswas from a Mymensingh-bound train with Tk 4.4 million, FDR worth Tk 25 million, cheque worth Tk 13 million and 12 bottles of phensedyl.
He was going to his village in Mymensingh from Chattogram. While investigating the source of Sohel’s money, the probe body found corruption at every step in Chattogram central jail.
Chief of the probe body Syed Belal Hossain found irregularities by visiting jails in Chattogram, Jhenaidah, Brahmanbaria, and Rajshahi. The style of irregularities in all jails is similar.
Asked why DIGs (prisons) do not find irregularities, Syed Belal Hossain said, “I have been asked to carry out the investigation and I have done it and submitted the report. I have no jurisdiction to make any comment.”
Dhaka DIG (prisons) Tipu Sultan said, “When I inspect jail, I identify wrongdoings and ask the officials to correct them.”
Barishal DIG (prisons) Mohammad Touhidul Islam said, “We take action if we find any irregularities.”
Speaking to Prothom Alo, IG (prisons) brigadier general AKM Mostafa Kamal Pasha said, “We have taken the observations of the investigation report seriously.”
Former advisor to the caretaker government M Hafizuddin Khan said the home ministry investigation committee has made the observation accurately.
He said a probe body including civil society members should be formed to investigate irregularities and corruption at jails across the country.
The home ministry should take stern action against the guilty persons, Hafizuddin suggested.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.