The court sentenced six persons to death for the killing of Rifat Sharif in Barguna in June last year. Rifat's wife Ayesha Siddika is among those facing the death sentence. After the court issued the verdict on Wednesday, the six of them were taken to condemned cells as per the rules.

Deputy Inspector General (Prisons) Touhidul Islam on Thursday told Prothom Alo, there are 49 female prisoners in condemned cells around the country. However, no death sentence has been executed so far against any women in the country.

If two prisoners are kept together in a condemned cell, they may plan on escaping from the jail. But if three are kept together, the plan does not remain a secret. That is why two persons are not kept together in a condemned cell.

What is a condemned cell?

The cell in which death row prisoners are kept is called the condemned cell. The jail code for the condemned cell prisoners is different from that of the other jail inmates. The condemned cells are also very different from the other parts of the jail.

Former DIG (prisons) Shamsul Haider Siddiqui, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that the jail code does not have any special mention about condemned cell convicts, but they are kept in these different facilities. This is a sort of norm. A condemned cell can accommodate one to three inmates.

He said, normally it is felt if two prisoners are kept together in a condemned cell, they may plan on escaping from the jail. But if three are kept together, the plan does not remain a secret. That is why two persons are not kept together in a condemned cell.

Shamsul Haider Siddiqui went on to say that condemned cells have a small window for air and light to enter the room. The convicts of this cell are allowed to move around outside the cell for a fixed span of time during the day. According to the jail code, once a person is sentenced to death, he or she is kept under constant watch and there are restrictions about them meeting visitors. But there is no rule about keeping them alone.

A condemned cell for one convict is normally 10 ft by 6 ft, though larger in some jails. The condemned cells has eating, bathing and toilet facilities.

Shamsul Haider said that that previously it was not compulsory to take the prisoners outside of the condemned cell and there are instances of some prisoners not leaving the cells for years. However, staying in a single cell for such an extended period can create health problems leading to death and so now the condemned cell prisoners are allowed to walk around outside of the cell for a specific time during the day.

Condemned cell prisoners are allowed to meet visitors once a month and, on special consideration, sometimes once in 15 days.

The former DIG (Prisons) said that as long as the court upholds the death sentence, the convict must remain in the condemned cell. He or she is taken from that cell to attend hearings in court.

For general prisoners, many inmates stay together in a cell and have more time to move around outside of the cells. They eat in dining halls and have a separate place for bathing. They have more facilities to meet prisoners.

Barguna district jail superintendent Anwar Hossain on Thursday said there were no women facing death sentence in that jail other than Ayesha Siddika and so she was alone in the condemned cell. The other five who were sentenced to death in the same case were also kept in condemned cells. There were no prisoners in the condemned cells of the jail other than those convicted in the Rifat killing case.

The jail superintendent said the condemned cell inmates were given plates, bowls and blankets and two sets of clothes each. They would have to dress according to the jail code.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

Read more from Crime
Post Comment