“Prison walls have a double function; to lock people in and the public out” – Manfred Nowak”
- former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
We have been taught that ‘life inside prison is hell on earth’. This saying from the past was proven wrong with the declaring open of the country’s first prison at
Angunukolapelessa, Hambantota yesterday. The facility has been built to meet present international standards
The congestion of inmates in the prison and the severe conditions in archaic prisons across the country were facts that troubled prison authorities for many years. But the general opinion of the public is that criminals should treated as criminals and be imprisoned in places where there are the least facilities and zero comforts.
The luxury prison at Angunukolapelessa, Hambantota
In 2014 February the then Speaker of the House Chamal Rajapaksa laid the foundation stone for a luxury prison facility in Angunukolapelessa, Hambantota. However the intention behind building such a star class prison at that time wasn’t very clear. The building raised a lot of suspicion due to its opulent features and the mysteriousness surrounding it, but construction was completed in the middle of this year sans interruptions.
The facility referred to by the public as the ‘Super Prison’, due to its luxury features, made newspaper headlines. The facility was built at an estimated cost of Rupees 4.5 billion on a 65-acre land. The construction of the prison complex was undertaken by a local company, Sanken Constructions Private Limited, using local manpower.
The prison was to be declared open on March 16 with President Maithripala Sirisena in attendance, but the event was postponed because the President had declined to accept an invitation.
For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka prisons, bio-gas energy has been introduced. The prison will have an underground bio-gas plant
Following many efforts and discussions the prison complex was declared open by Prison Reforms Minister D.M.Swaminathan with the participation of officials of the Department of Prisons, on October yesterday. Prisons Reforms Ministry Spokesman Dumidu Bandara said that inmates from Tangalle, Kalutara and Colombo would be transferred to the newly build facility.
The visited the complex before the construction work concluded and learned that the Tangalle Prison was on the verge of collapsing, risking the lives of inmates. This is what made the authorities expedite the construction process of the new prison.
The entire prison complex can accommodate over 1,500 inmates, both men and women. The facility also has separate sections for male and female inmates who are minors.
When building the Angunukolapelessa Prison great attention has been given to ensure that the inmates remain healthy. To achieve this the authorities have built a three-storeyed indoor sport complex in addition to outdoor volleyball and netball courts.
The facility also includes a 7-lap swimming pool which boasts of the latest technology. This facility built for aquatic sport will also have changing rooms and a shower area.
Near the entrance to the prison premises, which is on the left, the authorities have built a large ground which sports a 4,000 metre track. There are also four pavilions, large enough to host a district sporting event.
Two views of the swimming pool area
However prison officials told the Daily Mirror that these facilities have been built for the use of the officials and to conduct sports activities of schoolchildren. However, there are concerns because this part of the prison is outside the cells, and will be used by inmates who have had a brush with the law. The prison will also have 140 officers’ quarters. Each quarters can accommodate 6 families and also has many single billets.
The prison is also equipped with a modern hospital which provides inmates with standard medical facilities, up to treatment at OPD level.
For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka prisons, bio-gas energy has been introduced. The prison will have an underground bio-gas plant.
When the prison was constructed attention had also been given to have a place to entertain visitors.
However the public have their suspicions whether the facility will be misused by high-profile politicians who do wrong. This is because of the comforts available at this facility
The facility has a cafeteria for visitors which can cater to about100 people. There are also several rest rooms where guests can be accommodated. Meanwhile, the authorities have also built a couple of lecture halls within the prison. The entire prison has been provided with ample security using high end CCTV cameras. There will be 24-hour monitoring done from watchtowers, using modern devices.
A special fire-control unit will be deployed around the prison premises and a separate fire truck and ambulance service complete this line-up.
According to prison authorities special security is provided at the prisoners’ cells. The corridors are monitored by CCTV cameras apart from the prison officers being on duty.
It was learned that the facility is a one of a kind prison in South Asia, given its superior facilities.
The construction of the new prison has been hailed by several parties. However the public have their suspicions whether the facility will be misused by high-profile politicians who do wrong. This is because of the comforts available at this facility.
Prison authorities confirmed that the Tangalle Prison would be discontinued with and that some inmates of the Welikada Prison would also be transferred to the facility at Agunukolapelessa.
Pix by Samantha Perera