46 acres of prime land for sale after prisons move out
June 2, 2012
Thirty eight acres of highly valuable prime land in Colombo and eight acres in Kandy town with a minimum value of Rs.25 billion will be up for grabs when the Prison Reforms Ministry completes relocation of the Bogambara and Welikada Prisons complexes. Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera said Sri Lanka’s prison system will undergo several changes including the re-location of almost all the major prisons at Welikada, Bogambara, Jaffna, Matara, Hambantota and the Borella Magazine remand prison.

“The land on which the Welikada Prison complex is situated is one of the largest blocks of land in the Colombo city. The ministry does not want to burden the Treasury for funds for the prison re-location programme so it will be done by selling these prime properties. Even the private sector can submit bids when the land is put up for sale,” the minister said. The modalities for the sale will be worked out by the Treasury, Economic Development Ministry, Urban Development Authority and the Prison Reforms Ministry.”

The minister said the ministry would be still left with another ten acres of prime land at Matara and Tangalle once the relocation was complete.

He said under the first stage the Welikada prison would be moved to Watareka and Mahara and the Watareka work camp would be expanded to accommodate convicted, nonconvicted and remand prisoners now at Welikada and Magazine prisons.

Kandy’s Bogambara prison, which is more than 150 years old, will be re-located at Pallekele and the Jaffna prison will be taken to a location along Ponnali Road near the lagoon.

“The Ministry has already spent some Rs.2,072 million for the first and second stages out of an estimated Rs.6,700 million for the four-stage relocation of the Welikada Prison. We hope to take the 1,500 prisoners at Welikada to Watareka next month,” the minister said and added that a five-acre block of land would be retained by the ministry at Welikada for prison administration and staff quarters. The foundation stones will be laid this month for the new prisons at Angunukolapalassa and Pitabeddara. The minister said the new prisons would have more space and many new facilities including separate quarters for female and pregnant prisoners, and sports and recreation. He said the prisoners would be given more time to meet and talk to family members and friends like in developed countries.

“Prisoners are being punished repeatedly after becoming inmates at highly congested prisons that do not possess minimum basic facilities. Prisons here are in fact like a living hell with opportunities to turn an innocent man into a hardcore criminal after a few months, if not weeks, in prison. This kind of inhuman situation has to be changed if we use prisons as rehabilitation or reforming institutions,” the minister said.

Remand prisoners are to be separated from convicted and hardcore criminals under the reform programmes. All prisoners are to be graded and kept separately. New prisons are to be constructed according to the international prison guidelines

The country’s prison system has not been subjected even to minor reform though the prison department is one of the oldest government departments established in 1844. Prison surveys say that ills of the prison system emanate from these drawbacks and current prison management is not much different from what existed hundred years ago.

Some 30,000 prisoners are housed at our prisons constructed to accommodate 11,000. The pressing problem in the prison system is congestion. Studies say positive interaction between prison officers and inmates is extremely poor in Sri Lanka’s prisons.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka