Prison Study by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka initiated the Study of Prisons in Sri Lanka in response to the absence of information in the public domain about, as well as lack of public discourse on the prisons system, and conditions and treatment of prisoners.
The study was conducted in twenty prisons around the country. The methodology of the study consisted of inspections of prisons, administering questionnaires and conducting interviews with prisoners. Interviews were also conducted with prison officers from each prison as well as external stakeholders involved in the criminal justice and correctional process, including state actors from all relevant ministries. Based on the information gathered, the conditions of prisons and treatment of prisoners were evaluated within the fundamental human rights standards outlined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka and the domestic legal framework regulating the administration of prisons, as well as relevant international human rights obligations of the state.
The study revealed that the treatment and detention conditions of prisoners fall far below the threshold of basic living standards. The provision of services to which prisoners are entitled, including access to healthcare and opportunities for rehabilitation, are poor because the level of occupancy of the prisons is manifold its capacity. Due to the severe shortage of staff prison officers are overworked and experience job dissatisfaction and mental distress. The inadequate remuneration that is not commensurate with the difficult and even dangerous conditions of their work environment exacerbates the challenges they face discharging their functions effectively. Thus, prisons were found to be overcrowded and dysfunctional, where the risk of breeding criminality, corruption and recidivism was high as the opportunities for rehabilitation were minimal. Hence, there is the absence of conditions conducive to the effective social re-integration of reformed prisoners.