Prison visits are a fine initiative

Inmates at Sharjah Central Jail meet family members during GCC Inmates Week. Photo: Courtesy Sharjah Central Jail
Inmates at Sharjah Central Jail meet family members during GCC Inmates Week. Photo: Courtesy Sharjah Central Jail

One of the most joyous moments in life is when we reunite with our loved ones after a long separation. Inmates at Sharjah Central Jail experienced this feeling this week when the prison authorities organised visits by six families from Oman, Sri Lanka, Syria and Ethiopia.

As The National reported yesterday, emotions ran high when the Sharjah prisoners got to meet relatives they had not seen for many years. One inmate was able to meet his child for the first time, having last seen his wife when she was eight months pregnant. A Sri Lankan woman in her late 60s was on the verge of fainting because she had been able to get to the prison to see her son after 11 years.

This was the second time that the Sharjah Correctional Department has organised such a reunion for expatriate inmates. What made it truly remarkable was that it was organised by the prison authorities. That included the cost of travel, visas and accommodation. The scheme rewards good behaviour and is all the more important for that because it encourages prisoners to earn the precious reward of seeing their families without being separated by a glass security screen.

Such an initiative is also good for the criminal justice system. Besides enabling visits that would otherwise probably not have been financially possible, it also serves as an innovative rehabilitation technique, especially with inmates serving long sentences. Meeting loved ones can enhance their psychological well-being.

As the French philosopher Michel Foucault once said, punishment has shifted from the disciplining of the body to the disciplining of the soul. This is the right way to go about it and the Sharjah prison authorities are setting an admirable example.

Published: December 10, 2014 04:00 AM

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