Prison Break – for real?

Visit to Central Jail Rawalpindi – REPORT

Our visit to the jail was eye-opening for me, because the inmates’ living conditions were a lot better than what I had originally expected. The food was more than just the TV-typical hard bread and cold soup; the menu was actually well organized, with the prisoners regular beef and chicken rations, and meals three times a day.

I expected the inmates to be locked up around the clock, but I learned that they were allowed to roam around within their wards during the day. They weren’t wearing prison uniforms, no orange coveralls in sight. Each was wearing different clothes – shalwar kameez, tank tops, shorts. Inmates weren’t chained up to stone walls, and nobody was sharpening the edge of a toothbrush to use it as a weapon. Women were waxed and looked relatively clean. I expected hairy, unhygienic women, looking tired and worn out. Instead, they seemed remarkably normal, just like someone on the street.

The prisoners are given education! When I heard this, I pictured mangy classrooms, broken down facilities, with the government just claiming to educate them while nothing really happened. After all, Pakistan is famous for its corruption. But the computer class was orderly and clean, everything looked legit and functioning. We actually saw a class in session, where men were learning how to fix an air conditioner. In the advanced class, programmes like Adobe were taught, which was a real shocker for me.

The most unanticipated part of the trip for me was probably when we saw the female prisoners’ little children. Innocent children who were born after their mothers were convicted lived in jail with them. I had never thought this was possible. Why is no Child Protective Services? Why aren’t these children allowed to see the outside world?

The kitchen was a lot more advanced than any of us had really expected, I think, with its assembly-line style naan production.
I also noticed the lack of intimidating and battle-scarred wardens/guards stationed everywhere, as I had imagined.

Overall, the prisoners had it far better than I could’ve thought.