Women prisoners without families

August 12, 2018
Women prisoners without families

Abdo Khal

Okaz newspaper

THE world is making efforts to reduce the number of prisoners because the high costs of punishing, reforming and refining inmates lie on the shoulders of the governments.

I fully back the proposal to dry up prisons especially as the crimes of a large number of the inmates did not cause any heavy damage to society. The prison terms in their cases should have been substituted by community service, which will benefit both the prisoners and society at large.

The management of prisons can monitor the prisoners doing community service by special electronic bracelets that have proved successful in many parts of the world.

Our prisons are replete with expatriate prisoners who will be deported to their respective homes after serving their prison terms. If we are going to deport them anyway, why do we keep them in the prisons?

I was deeply astonished by the reports that there were Saudi women who remained in prisons because their families refused to accept them upon their release after serving their terms.

The Ministry of Interior is trying to revive an old Shoura Council recommendation that women prisoners should be released irrespective of whether their families consent to accept them or not.

I do not think that this recommendation needs any new legislation because making decisions in such cases is the prerogative of the prisons themselves and nobody else.

If a woman prisoner is kept locked even after serving her prison term, this will be not only a gross violation of her human rights but it will also undermine the country's criminal justice system.

Under the prison regulations, no prisoner should stay behind bars after he or she had served their sentences. This is a very clear statement but some previous social traditions had prevented the release of women prisoners simply because their families had refused to accept them back into their fold.

However, many changes have happened since then, empowering women and making them responsible for their future. Saudi women now enjoy complete legal and human rights so that their fate is left to the mercy of their male guardians.

The question here is if the male guardian or the family has disowned a woman prisoner, will she remain all her life in prison.

The management of prisons should liaise with the concerned government bodies to release all women prisoners who have completed their prison terms and hand them over to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to take care of them. There are also many charity organizations that could help in this aspect.

If this situation continued, it means that women are being kept in prisons for no fault of theirs, which is totally against the rules and regulations of criminal justice.

The human rights organizations are also to blame for the condition of the women prisoners who are kept in prisons for no valid reason. These organizations should move fast to correct this situation and protect the human rights of women prisoners.

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