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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

New health centre to open for Dubai prisoners

A centre, which can host up to 240 inmates with chronic or communicable diseases, is set to open next week

Dubai Central Prison is to set up a health centre for inmates in one of a number of moves aimed at helping prisoners become functioning members of society again.

The centre, which opens next week, will be home to inmates with chronic or communicable diseases, who will receive tailored treatment.

“The facility, fully equipped with the appropriate amenities, can accommodate up to 240 people,” said Brig Ali Mohammed Al Shamali, director of the general department of correctional institutions.

Prisoners with HIV and Hepatitis are already located at a separate medical centre away from other inmates but “with the opening of the special centre, all inmates with communicable diseases will be transferred”.

Brig Al Shamali said that the average prisoner costs authorities about Dh5,000 a month.

“Each prisoner cost lots of money, however prisoners who need medical care cost way more,” he said.

“Each prisoner costs Dh150 per day, except for those with cardiac diseases, who cost more. The cost of one particular prisoner stood at Dh100,000.”

In cases where their illness is severe, prisoners can be released on compassionate grounds after their situation has been reviewed by a medical committee consisting of representatives of Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Police and Public Prosecution.

“We release older prisoners or those with serious diseases, in addition to the release on national and religious occasions, such as National Day, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha,” said Brig Al Shamali.

About half of prisoners in the jail are Asian, serving time for crimes varying from absconding from their employers, illegal residency, drugs consumption and trafficking, murder, rape or even theft.

Rehabilitation of inmates is a key pillar of what Dubai Central Prison tries to achieve through a variety of programmes and services targeted at offenders in a bid to engage them in society.

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Dubai prison nursery to open

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“We try our best to help prisoners become contributing members of society,” said Brig Al Shamali.

Prisoners participate in workshops and projects and earn small amounts of money that they can spend in the jail shop for their efforts.

“They get trained and then start building everything, such as buggies and motorbikes. Working and participating in workshops does not only help them in passing the time but also in getting income inside jail that might develop to a career when they finish their sentence,” said Brig Al Shamali.

The work they do is also sold on the outside world, he added.

“They also learn about agriculture, making handicrafts and many other things. For instance, a woman learnt about an industry and went to her homeland and established a project,” he said. “Another person learnt how to make handicraft and wood carvings and opened a project in Masafi.”

For the mothers who end up behind bars and either want or are forced to have their children with them as they have no family in the country, the prison tries to be accommodating with their needs.

Two years ago a nursery was set up to accommodate up to 40 children and, in the interest of their welfare, it is forbidden for the children to interact with inmates other than their own mother.

“About 38 children aged from day one to eight years old are being housed in the nursery,” said Brig Al Shamali.

“The nursery has the necessities to ensure the safety of these children and to provide them with an environment away from prisoners. It offers a games room, a dining room and several classrooms and children are being taught by a specialised tutor in English.

“It is not acceptable whatsoever for children to interact with prisoners, except their mothers.

“Interacting with prisoners will have a negative impact on these children. This will adversely affect their mental health and therefore we are making a great effort to convince mothers to allow a close relative to take care of their children until they are released.”

However, he said that of the almost 400 women in Dubai Central Prison, most choose to keep their children with them or have to as they have no family in the UAE.

“We strive to provide the necessary care for these children,” he added.

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