Local newspapers recently published images showing the designs of the new central prison in Kuwait – apparently a 5-star hotel in terms of shape and space. Officials from the interior ministry said the new prison will be the best in the Middle East. I believe that modernization in terms of construction and space, whether by expanding prison cells and adding larger spaces for prisoners to perform sports, religious activities or work are desirable for two reasons.
First, the prison is supposed to be a place of rehabilitation and education to ensure that the criminal will not return to the criminal world again after their release. The second reason is that a prisoner is a human being who has rights that must be respected, and the idea of expanding and improving the place should commensurate with all requirements and needs of human rights.
But prison remains a spot where freedoms are curtailed for a crime that was committed against another human being and which harmed the society, so the issue of putting a person in prison as punishment is something that cannot be disputed. It is known that in Kuwait, the ministry of awqaf and Islamic affairs is active in involving the prisoners in Quran workshops by hosting religious scholars to give sermons and hold cultural competitions, in addition to computer courses. The fact that the prison holds computer courses is a good thing, so that the prisoner learns something after the end of the prison term.
Also, learning a craft in jail is important in restructuring the personality of the prisoner. There is an annual exhibition of prisoners’ products made of wood, plastic and metal. I think all these matters are in the interest of the prisoners.
But the question remains about what sometimes get published in the news about the situation inside the prison.
For example, the spread of drugs is worrying for the families of prisoners, especially those imprisoned for traffic or financial cases, especially young people in their twenties. Last year, local newspapers published important news about prison officials who found a secret hideout – a large underground hole in the central prison – containing large quantities of contraband. A large force was equipped as a first stage to evacuate the prison, and then dogs were used for six hours to discover the hideout.
The security force seized the largest amount of banned items, including over 1,056 mobile phones, narcotics, and four small drones suspected of being used to transport narcotics into and out of prison, and drilling tools. An extensive investigation was opened to find out how such a large quantity of contraband existed inside the prison. It was said that the value of seized items was estimated at KD 1.5 million.
I believe that prisons are a place of discipline and rehabilitation, not a place of harm. There are those who believe that prisoners should be allowed to own a cell phone, but how can the prison administration ensure that the phone will not be use wrongly – and lead to another crime. It is known that prisons in the world allow the use of a public telephone with specific conditions.
I think food quality, clothing and level of medical treatment must be at an appropriate level at the new prison and should be reviewed annually for a radical and integrated change. It is important that the interior ministry promotes the institution to be a global example with regards to the level of services provided to prisoners and respect for their needs, so that it would be easier for prisoners to integrate with their families and the community in the future. Prisoners – whether citizens or expatriates – have committed a punishable offense, but we must keep hope before them for a new start after their release.
By Muna Al-Fuzai