Pardoning minor offenders implementing committee recommendations 

By Sarah Hannan

The pardoning of minor offenders to reduce overcrowding in prisons due to Covid-19 continues as the Department of Prisons has commenced the release of such inmates in batches.

On Binara Full Moon Poya Day (1) 444 inmates received a special presidential pardon. These prisoners were sentenced over minor offences and were given presidential pardon.

“The initiative was proposed in March when a seven-member committee was appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to explore the possibility of reducing congestion in the prison system given the present global pandemic. This is a result of the series of meetings we had where it was determined that minor offenders would be pardoned,” Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Kalinga Indatissa PC told The Morning.

Indatissa also noted that for prisoners who are serving long terms based on their good behaviour, the Department of Prisons grants one month of leave and that time period has now been extended to three months.

“These inmates have, at the completion of the three-month period, returned back to their respective prison institutes, without any reports of further offences. We would also like to reiterate that at no point will we propose presidential pardons to inmates who were sentenced for rape, child abuse, discharging firearms, causing injury or death to a person, and serious crime,” Indatissa explained.

According to Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya, the suggestions that were made by the seven-member committee are taken into consideration when listing out the names of those who require pardoning.

Statistics shared by the Department of Prisons indicated that 26,000 individuals are currently placed in remand at prisons across the island, while the capacity is only able to handle 15,000 inmates. With the ongoing initiative, the prisons will be able to bring down the capacity to its optimum levels.