& ACCESS TO JUSTICE
CHAMPIONING PRISONER RIGHTS THROUGH PRISON VISTS IN PUNJAB
As the most densely populated province in the country, Punjab is home to 41 correctional facilities spanning its districts. In its unwavering commitment to safeguarding the rights of prisoners, the Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell has been at the forefront of prisoner rights for nearly three decades, since the inception of its groundbreaking ‘Prison Visit Program’ in 1989. This pioneering initiative serves a dual purpose: providing pro bono legal aid to destitute prisoners, with a special emphasis on vulnerable groups such as women, juveniles, and minorities, while also gaining invaluable firsthand insights into prison conditions, enabling the team to observe, monitor, and safeguard the prisoners’ fundamental human rights.
Over the years, AGHS Legal Aid Cell has conducted a remarkable 982 prison visits, extending vital legal support to thousands of prisoners. Each visit requires formal authorization from the prison authorities, and the coordination and supervision of these visits are entrusted to the esteemed Women Protection Officer, Ms. Robina Shaheen. Accompanied by a proficient team of five experienced lawyers, Ms. Shaheen leads the efforts in the prison, where AGHS advocates provide comprehensive legal assistance to vulnerable prisoners, gathering essential information and details to pursue their cases in court. The team also equips prisoners with contact information and emergency helpline numbers for AGHS Legal Aid Cell’s office, ensuring continued access to legal aid beyond the visitation.
Through these impactful prison visits, the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell not only empowers marginalized prisoners to seek legal redress but also collaborates with prison authorities to effect positive change in prison conditions. This includes addressing issues such as prison overcrowding, hygiene, and facilities for pregnant prisoners and those with newborn babies, thereby creating a safer and more humane environment for all prisoners. AGHS’s tireless efforts in prison reform not only champion equal access to justice for all prisoners but also promote the rule of law and uphold the principles of fairness and human dignity as enshrines in the Constitution of Pakistan.