A webinar series by UNDP and NDF

As part of its initiative to promote dialogue on development challenges faced by vulnerable segments of the youth population in Pakistan, UNDP in partnership with the National Dialogue Forum (NDP), recently organized a webinar on the pathways for rehabilitation and reintegration of young people in prisons. The dialogue aimed at increasing public awareness about the national laws and international commitments that govern the administration and functioning of prisons in Pakistan; shed light on the human rights and rehabilitation/reintegration issues faced by youth, women, and juvenile offenders in jails; highlighted the main structural, institutional, legal, and administrative hurdles against meaningful rehabilitative reforms in the prisons system; and brought forward the emerging challenges faced by prisons administrations across Pakistan due to the Covid 19 outbreak.

The webinar panel included Ms. Sarah Belal, Founder and Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan, Mr. Iqbal Detho, Human Rights Activist and Member of the National Commission on the Rights of Children, Ms. Valerie Khan, Executive Director, Group Development Pakistan, and Mr. Babur Ghani, a researcher working on the state of prisons in Pakistan. Inclusion of panellists from different professional backgrounds ensured that the conversation around the rehabilitation and reintegration of young prisoners in Pakistan was approached from various vantage points including institutional reforms, human rights challenges, and the state of facilities in jails and juvenile detention centres.



The panellists acknowledged the various legislative and policy measures undertaken by successive governments to introduce rehabilitative reforms in the prisons and justice systems in Pakistan. They also agreed that further actions were needed to modernize archaic laws and ensure the effective implementation of humane and rehabilitative legal and policy instruments. The panellists stressed that a fundamental shift in the ways juvenile offenders were perceived by legislators and policy makers was essential. This change of perception would ensure that budgetary allocations for jails in Pakistan were allocated towards rehabilitative reforms like livelihood skills, counselling, and structured social reintegration instead of reinforcing penal measures. Failure to do so would lead to the perpetuation of a prison environment which increases young people’s vulnerability to involvement in crime and antisocial activities.

You cannot have successful reintegration and rehabilitation without effectively functioning parole and probation systems. Reintegration cannot be done through the prisons system. (Iqbal Detho, Human Rights Activist and Member of the National Commission on the Rights of Children)

The panellists also came up with a number of recommendations to institute a paradigm shift towards a more rehabilitative prisons system in Pakistan. These included provision of adequate legal support to vulnerable prisoners and juvenile offenders; allocation of more resources to strengthen parole and probation systems; provision of education promoting tolerant and inclusive values among prisoners and juvenile offenders; separation of women juvenile prisoners from adults and inclusion of more women probation officers to support social reintegration; and incorporation of a psycho-social perspective in rehabilitation programmes for prisoners and juvenile offenders to understand the structural factors behind their vulnerability to criminality and antisocial activities.

You build your identity as a human being through transgressions. The role of parents, teachers, and institutions is to help children and adolescents learn from these transgressions in a positive way (Valerie Khan, Executive Director, Group Development Pakistan).

The recommendations from experts in this webinar will guide UNDP’s planned programming with prisoners and probationers in Pakistan; these will also be communicated to Government functionaries and political representatives through the advocacy component of our projects with the aim to bring about transformative and lasting changes to the lives of young people in conflict with the law in the province.





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