Until quite recently our countries did not have women’s correctional facilities and there was no opportunity for women to be looked after away from their homes and families, but time passes and nothing remains the same. Some women have therefore become prone to committing crimes like men, and are therefore liable for punishment as a result of this even if as a society we choose to look at women’s prisons as a last resort. Despite this, there are some cases that unfortunately require the most difficult of solutions, namely that of a prison sentence. This highlighted the need for correctional facilities for women and other facilities for female delinquents that help to shape their mentality and instil virtue and encourage a sense of repentance. In order for these facilities to perform their great humanitarian role they require a work team comprised of specialists in psychology, sociology and criminology who have practical experience in modifying behaviour and instilling good manners and moral values in others, otherwise this does nothing more than add to the misery of the inmates’ lives.
We witnessed a strange event last Friday when there was a riot at a women’s correctional facility in Mecca which resulted in a number of injuries [to staff-members]. Two exploratory committees were formed to investigate this; one committee was formed by the Governor of Mecca, while the other was formed by the [Saudi] Minister of Social Affairs. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to assess not only the performance of this correctional facility but also to assess the competence of all correctional facilities throughout Saudi Arabia, learning more about the conditions on the inside, their capabilities and needs, and how close or far away they are from meeting the objectives that they were originally established to meet.
What happened at the Mecca correctional facility requires investigation. The girls’ tendency to rioting might be because they are experiencing unbearable suffering, particularly as the head of a human rights organization in Mecca announced that complaints filed by inmates indicated that they have been exposed to a number of [human right] violations, and have been subjected to violence and mistreatment, and that they are living in unhealthy conditions and are malnourished. He also revealed that the majority of these violations that were reported to the human rights organization as far back as two years ago were not addressed until rioting broke out in the correctional facility last Friday. The Saudi Arabian Okaz newspaper quoted a number of reliable sources last Monday as saying that the Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution had submitted its final report to the Governor of Mecca on the riot that took place at a woman’s correctional facility on Sunday. This report contained 100 complaints from the correctional facilities inmates, ranging from malnutrition, poor cooking equipment and a lack of provisioned meals to mistreatment, and solitary confinement that lacks ventilation.
If this is proved to be true, then this is a very unfortunate situation. Such correctional facilities are supposed to help women who are experiencing difficult situations, and are away from the comforts of family and home. These facilities are supposed to provide hope for these girls and rescue them from the clutches of frustration, despair, and hopelessness paving the way towards greater confidence and a better future, and above all a deeper faith in the Most Merciful God Almighty. This is particularly important as some families refuse to take them back; therefore this correctional facility becomes their only option in this world.
I pray to God that all the inmates of this correctional facility will enjoy a better, brighter, and safer future.