PETALING JAYA: Prison authorities must ensure inmates are given constructive religious and moral education as part of their rehabilitation programme, a lawyer said.
Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said feedback received from Muslim prisoners, however, revealed that such programmes lacked substance.
“The inmates are allowed to follow Agama classes but sadly the ones conducting it just come in to fill in the hours and make their claims,” he said.
However, the lawyer did not reveal at which prison this complain came about.
He said this in response to a call by Bar Council criminal law committee member Baljit Sidhu that the Prisons Department must engage civil society to find new ways to rehabilitate prisoners and improve their welfare.
Baljit said the Commissioner-General must hold discussions with non-governmental organisations and the Bar Council to make the local prison system on par with other countries like Australia and the United Kingdom.
The convict, already serving time for car theft, and with only two weeks left of his jail term, was sentenced to nine years in jail and three strokes of the rotan for sodomising the cellmate.
Section 147 of the Prisons Regulations 2000 provided a qualified prison officer to be a religious instructor or a person accredited by a State Islamic administration to conduct lessons for Muslim inmates.
The same provision also states that any religious association legally registered could also conduct religious or moral lessons for non-Muslims after approval from a officer-in-charge.
“The laws are there but I am sceptical whether prisoners nationwide are getting quality religious education,” Rafique said.
The lawyer, who is a member of the Selangor Bar Committee, said religion was an effective tool to instill compassion and discipline among prisoners.
He said prisoners had time to reflect since they were confined behind bars.
“Religion is one of the ingredients to make a prisoner a wholesome person so that they could return to society,” he added.
He said personal hygiene and health of prisoners, prison conditions were also issues that must be reviewed by the government.
“I hope the Home Minister will make time for some surprise visits and see for himself what is happening behind the four walls of the prisons,” he added.