Newly refurbished special ward for female inmates in Kalutara Prison opened
The newly refurbished special ward for female inmates imprisoned with children under five years, at the Kalutara Prison, built with financial assistance from the UNDP Equal Access to Justice Project, was officially opened on May 16, 2011. A joint venture of the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prisons and the UNDP, the centre was opened by Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa, Speaker of Parliament. The ward was funded by the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR).
The new facility is aimed at providing a more conducive environment for the children of the inmates to grow up in. Prior to the reconstruction of this ward, they were housed with other female prisoners with no separate accommodation or play area.
Consisting of a separate kitchen, toilet facilities, personal lockers for inmates and a playground for children, the new ward will provide space for 30 detainees. The vast open spaces within the premises will provide the young children freedom to crawl and play. Moreover, its tranquil setting on the banks of the Kalu Ganga, away from the prison walls, surrounded by greenery, creates a warm and friendly environment for both mothers and children.
Expressing his thoughts on the significance of the new facility, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa noted that children should be allowed the freedom to enjoy their childhood.
“A child needs the love and care of a mother, especially during their early years, and the new facility will enable imprisoned mothers to care for their children and spend more time with them, expressed Hon. Chandrasiri Gajadeera, Minister of Rehabilitation and Prisons Reform.
Expressing her gratitude to the Equal Access to Justice Project, Mrs. Malkanthi Wickramasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, noted that the project works with vulnerable groups, including prisoners, to create increased awareness of their rights and ensure they benefit from legal services. By renovating the old building, the Equal Access to Justice Project has provided relief to both mothers and children, who can now benefit from this temporary shelter. The project will continue to support the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prisons in the future ensuring communities are better aware of their rights.
The new facility was constructed at a cost of nearly Rs 6 million. It was conceptualized in 2008 and project activities began in October 2009. Work on the project was completed in May 2011.
Hon. Chandrasiri Gajadeera, Minister of Rehabilitation and Prisons Reform, Mrs. Malkanthi Wickramasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, Mr. K. Dissanayake, Secretary, Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prisons Reform, Major General B. R. Silva, Commissioner of Prisons and Emil Ranjan Lamahewa, Director, Kalutara Prison, were among the distinguished guests present at the opening ceremony. Representatives of the Equal Access to Justice Project and representatives of the United Nations Development Programme were also present at the occasion.