Flames behind the iron bars
Daily Mirror Editorial
Jan 30, 2011

By resorting to the modern and the most ineffective norm of expressing displeasure, the prisoners at the Magazine Prison have lived up to the writing on the prison wall – ‘prisoners are people too.’ However, not in their wildest dreams would they have thought their ruthless actions would reinterpret if not ridicule the saying.

While many changes are being suggested to the prisons system, subsequent to this incident, the reason for the pandemonium that broke loose on Tuesday was rumoured to have been a result of action taken by a superintendent to crackdown on narcotic related activities inside the prisons.

The incident left 36 injured including a few prison officials and caused many damages to the prison’s properties, which saw more than half of the documents in the archives being reduced to ashes. No doubt, the prison, be it the one at Welikada or the one situated at Galle, had never been a trouble-free place in the history given the nature and the histories of its inmates; the remand prison does not differ much in that sense. It is a well-known fact that these places have become the knowledge hub of criminals where tactics, expertise and sometimes drugs are exchanged to and fro. While the majority of the prison officials are law-abiding and discharge their duties with the aim of busting such actions, there is also a minority who support this mafia for their own benefit.

Intelligence reports reveal that there is an unbreakable connection between the inmates who obtain their daily dose of drugs and the corrupt prisons officials who aid and abet these unlawful activities. It is said that the errant officials go to the extent of accepting bribes from the family members of these inmates for allowing in things that are on the banned list. Thus, the reason for chaos can be easily described as a climax of their fury at the deprivation of luxuries, that an ordinary inmate is not entitled to. However, it would not be surprising if it comes to light that the errant officials too have a hand in the mayhem; for the crackdown on narcotics surely means their extra perks getting reduced. This trend needs to be discontinued. The wave of corruption should be fenced and those who shamelessly exercise corruption should be brought to book without further delay.

This also issues a warning that it’s time to shed away the illusion that safety is at its best in the hands of the uniformed men; as it goes to show that the armed men did not have miraculous immunity from the ruthless behaviour of the prisoners. The situation would have been worse if there was no place in the close proximity to transfer the prisoners who are kept for the offences of terrorism.

No doubt, the injuries could be treated and the buildings could be reconstructed, the papers that were gutted will be recovered. Yet, the black mark it left on the history of prisons would not be erased.their behavior only signified the fact that they have not made an attempt to become 'people' during their time behind the bars and one doubt whether they ever will. They are people alright, it is high time they learnt to behave like the kind!

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka