A new service that will allow inmates to use phones to speak to their families from inside prison was launched by the government on Wednesday.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal launched the “Swajon” service at Tangail District Jail as a pilot project, which he said would be soon introduced to other prisons across the country.
The “Prison Link-smart communication system for inmates and relatives” project, known as Swajon in short, is being implemented by the Access to Information Program run by the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office with support from UNDP and USAID.
Under the project, inmates will be allowed to speak to two close relatives for a maximum of 10 minutes twice a month.
Prison authorities said the opportunity will be made available to regular inmates only, with militants and high-profile criminals excluded.
After the introduction of the service on Wednesday, four inmates spoke to their families from inside Tangail District Jail.
“I feel great after speaking to my relatives from jail,” said Sajjad Hossain, who has been in prison for the past eight months.
Another prisoner, Rashedul Islam, also praised the project. He said: “I talked to my wife for 10 minutes. I welcome this initiative of the government.”
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Officials of Tangail District Jail, wearing the ID cards, with the four inmates who were allowed to contact their families through the Swajon phone service on Wednesday; March 28, 2018 Dhaka Tribune
Sources said four booths have been set up in a room inside the Tangail District Jail for the service, each for use by one inmate at a time.
Software development, the setting up of servers and other preparations for the service have already been completed.
When an inmate is admitted to the prison, authorities will collect the contact numbers of two members of their family. After the numbers are verified, the inmates will be allowed to use designated phones to speak to these relatives.
Women, old people, children and juvenile inmates will be given priority for the use of the phones, which will be available every day from 9am to 4pm.
The call will be automatically disconnected after 10 minutes. There will be a warning beep on the phone three minutes before the time ends.
Prisoners will be unable to dial numbers themselves from these booths and there will be no incoming calls.
The specific numbers provided by the prisoners will be installed on the phones and a photo of the person they are calling will be saved on the software.
An inmate will press either 1 or 2 and then can make the call. They will not be allowed to speak to their lawyers through the phones.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to create an opportunity for inmates to use phones to speak to their families while inaugurating the new prison in Keraniganj in April 2016.
This followed a 2013 directive from the Home Ministry to the Department of Prisons to install phone booths in jails across the country. The related regulations to allow this to happen were finalized in March 2015.
Separately on Wednesday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the government was not barring any party from organizing their programs.
“Sometimes they (political parties) are asked to organize programs at a different place or on a different day, instead of at the designated place or scheduled time, for security reasons,” he said.
He added that all parties in the country could conduct their political activities, including BNP.