PESHAWAR -- Authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) are working to ensure that inmates have the necessary skills to become productive members of society following their release from prison.
KP Inspector General of Prisons Shahidullah Khan February 19 inaugurated a mobile phone repair workshop at Central Prison Peshawar as part of the government's efforts to rehabilitate prisoners.
"This is a step toward changing the commonly held notion that people become hardened criminals once they land in prison," Khan told Pakistan Forward. "This workshop will enable the inmates to restart their lives respectably once they are released."
The workshop is "an effort toward the prisoners' rehabilitation", he said. "In the first phase, 10 inmates, including five adults and five juveniles, will be trained by instructors."
The participants will undergo training ranging from one to three months in length, according to Khan.
"The measure will help prisoners reform their lives and and allow them to begin businesses instead of committing crimes again," he said. "We have plans to launch the courses in other prisons of the province as part of the government's reform programme in prisons."
"The well-being of the prisoners is a top priority," he added.
Mobile phone repair training a 'blessing'
Mobile phone repair is an expanding business as most Pakistanis use such devices, Ikramullah Khan, secretary of KP's Home and Tribal Affairs Department, said at the inauguration of the workshop.
"Those taking interest in the training could become good technicians and can earn an appropriate income," he said.
Muhammad Rafiq, a 26-year-old inmate who was imprisoned for a fight with his neighbours, said the training is a blessing.
"This is very helpful for us. Once I leave, I can support my parents through halal means," Rafiq, a former construction worker, told reporters.
"A mobile repair shop is easy to open with nominal investment, and I would earn money more easily than by doing hard labour," he said.
Vocational training, education for prisoners
Prison officials have been providing educational opportunities to inmates to prevent them from falling into the hands of criminals after their release, KP Assistant Inspector General of Prisons Khalid Abbas told Pakistan Forward.
"The prisoners receive vocational and computer training through which they can earn money, instead of having to commit crimes like thefts," he said. "Prison inmates are taking a keen interest in such courses."
The trainings matter because many of those taking part committed minor crimes and are willing to stay away from future criminal activities, Abbas said.
"In line with the government's policy, we have been making efforts to provide skills to inmates that can help them after they complete their prison sentence," he said.
"In the next budget, we have included more educational programmes throughout 22 prisons to equip prisoners with various skills," Abbas said, adding that KP has allocated Rs. 276 million ($2.5 million).
"We want to ensure the social re-integration of prisoners and allow them to receive respect in society," he said.
"We are also giving priority to the well-being of female prisoners," he said, adding, "Training in embroidery and in literacy is part of the programme."
Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar-based political and security analyst, praised the government's efforts to provide free training courses to inmates.
Such courses will "bring respectability to prisoners", he told Pakistan Forward. "They will be able to live with dignity and will not revert to crime."