State Minister of Justice and Prison Affairs, Anuradha Jayaratne, on Thursday (10) said that four private companies had pledged their support for a programme to set up workshops in prisons and employ prisoners.
Addressing the media at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC), Jayaratne said discussions had already commenced on operating prisons in a way that does not burden the treasury. The state Minister said there were 28,468 prisoners and that the number of drug-related offenders had increased rapidly.
“The government spends 3.9 billion rupees to feed the inmates. The prisoners are now cultivating 418 acres of land and soon an additional 200 acres will be added, he said. “We are trying to reduce the huge amount of money spent on food with this,” he said.
The private sector factories inside prisons would hire inmates and a prisoner who worked in these factories would be paid Rs 1,400 each a day and their family would receive Rs 400–500 each, Jayaratne said.
About 50.3 percent of inmates were serving sentences for drug related offences and in some prisons about 65 percent are detained due to drug related offences, he said.
“We observed that many are arrested over drug-related offences repeatedly as they fall off the wagon when they return home. We are now trying to enroll inmates in a programme that combines skills development and rehabilitation. The development of two such centres, in the Western and Southern provinces, is being discussed with the Minister of Health, Keheliya Rambukwella,” he said.