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Rights of a Prisoner - Part 4

Adopted from the book: "The rights of prisoners according to Islamic teachings" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Shirazi"

Amongst prisoner's rights

Every prisoner must always have the opportunity to present his requirements or complaints to such authorities as the prison governor, the prison inspector, etc. It must be made known to the prisoners that they can be in touch with their friends or families through visit, correspondence, etc. When the prisoner receives visitors, the prison authority may not eavesdrop on their conversation or may not use glass screens to keep the prisoner apart from their visitors, regardless of the prisoner's nationality. If the prisoner wishes to contact a lawyer or charity organisation or any other such institution or individual, the prison authority should facilitate his demand. If the prisoner has been described as dangerous by a judge, then the prison authority may limit his contacts according to the judge's written permission.

Prison rules

Prison rules and regulation must be given to every prisoner, in written form for those who can read, and on audiocassette for those who cannot.

Access to media The prisoners should have access to the communications media such as the newspapers, magazine, radio and TV, etc. A comprehensive library must be provided for all prisoners; men, women and children. If a prisoner needed a book not available in the library, the prison authority must

provide the book whether at the expense of the prisoner if s/he can afford it or that of the prison budget.

Practice of Religion

Every prisoner must be allowed to practice his/her religious duties such as prayer, fasting and to possess the Qur'an and religious books such as prayer and supplication books, etc. Also if the prisoner sought the services of a religious clergy then s/he must be provided with one.

The prisoners may perform congregational prayers either themselves or with the help of external clergies. During the holy month of Ramadahn, the prisoners who fast must have their food provided during the allocated times; i.e. before dawn and after dusk. During the month of the Hajj pilgrimage those prisoners who are able and wish to go to Hajj must be allowed to do so after taking the necessary measures to ensure their return to prison, such as taking out bail. Similarly if a prisoner had made a vow to visit or remain in a holy site or shrine, s/he must be allowed to do so while on bail. Also if the prisoner needed a secluded place for study or prayer and worship, s/he must be provided such a place.

All of this is also applicable to a non-Muslim prisoner, and if s/he had special ceremonies s/he must also be allowed and facilitated to practice them.

Religious rites and festivals

A prisoner must be allowed to attend religious festivals and all other important religious ceremonies such as those on the occasion of the birthday or demise of the Prophet (S) and other infallible Imams (A). The prisoner must also be allowed to visit his sick family members or attend their funerals or weddings, while on bail for instance. It is reported that Imam Ali (A) used to release the prisoners, who were debtors or murder suspects, to attend Friday prayers and then are returned to prison by their guarantors. 89 It is also narrated that Imam Sadiq (A) said that the leader must arrange for the prisoners to attend congregational prayers on Fridays and on other festive occasions such as Eid. When they perform their prayers they are returned to prison by their guards. 90

Choice of prison location

The prisoner has the right to request transfer from one prison to another in a different locality, if feasible. In general, the principle is that the particular offender must be imprisoned, but the details of the imprisonment are flexible. The prisoner may request to be imprisoned in a house, even in his own house if the cost of such arrangement is not too high for the government,

unless the prisoner is prepared to pay for the cost of this arrangement such that the authorities are assured that the prisoner remains in the house. For example by means of mechanical or electronic tagging, or if the prisoner promises not to leave the house, and if the authorities believe his words. We have shown in jurisprudence texts that the prisoner may serve his sentence in instalments.

Prisoner's possession

The prisoner's possession such as clothes, money, watch, jewellery and other valuable items must be listed and kept for the prisoner and returned to him when leaving the prison.

Prison uniform The prison authority may not impose the wearing of uniform on prisoners and they may wear what they choose.

Receiving mail and goods In general the prisoner may receive goods from outside prison, with the exception of forbidden items such as narcotics unless prescribed by medical expert.

Informing next of kin

The family of the prisoner must be informed immediately of his/her imprisonment. They must also be informed if the prisoner is transferred to another prison, or if the prisoner is seriously ill or if s/he dies. Similarly the prisoner must be informed of the illness or death of a family member.

Notes:

89. al-Ja'fariyat, p 44.

90. Man la Yahdharuhul-Faqih, vol. 3, p 31. See also Wasa'el al-Shi'a, vol. 7, section 21, and Mustadrak el-Wasa'el, vol. 6, section 17.

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