x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Penal reforms aim to unlock potential

Designed to equip young prisoners with professional skills, the reforms seek to rehabilitate offenders.

Officials hope inmates at institutions will be better equipped to rejoin society after reforms are implemented.
Officials hope inmates at institutions will be better equipped to rejoin society after reforms are implemented.

ABU DHABI // The Government is planning to introduce a set of reforms to rehabilitate young prisoners and equip them with skills to reintegrate into society. According to Abu Dhabi Police, the Interior Ministry is co-ordinating with specialists in the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs who work in the prison system to figure out what reforms are needed.

A private company will then be given the responsibility of introducing the reforms, under the supervision of Abu Dhabi Police. Major Gen Obaid al Ketbi, the deputy director general of Abu Dhabi Police, said the reforms would help the prison system fulfil its rehabilitation and punitive roles, and ensure offenders were equipped to become responsible citizens after their release. The as-yet-unnamed company will be given the job of rehabilitating juvenile prisoners and others in Al Wathba Prison and Al Mafraq Juvenile Centre.

Specialists from both the Ministry for Education and the Ministry for Social Affairs are stationed at Al Mafraq to help the prisoners. The Ministry of Education has been supervising the performance of the prison school, which provides classes for first to 12th grade pupils. The school also provides professional and technical training for young prisoners. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for providing rehabilitation services. A number of specialists regularly assess the mental health and social situation of every prisoner.

All of those prisoner services will be taken over by the private firm. Col Mohammed al Zouabi, deputy director of the police's punitive and rehabilitation department, said Al Mafraq already had computer halls, swimming pools and sports centres for its young prisoners, and had been co-operating with colleges that provide facilities, advice, and professional and social programmes. Col al Zouabi said the old prison model would be replaced by a new, progressive one that will comply with the best international standards and practices. "A radical change is under way," he said.

Part of these reforms will be the construction of a new prison in Al Wathba, announced in July, which will accommodate up to 5,500 inmates and improve existing buildings. The prisoners will also have access to new recreational facilities. hhassan@thenational.ae