In Butwal, juvenile delinquents are compelled to stay at a crowded correctional facility without proper meansAs a result of the overcrowding, many suffer from skin-related diseases.
The correctional facility for juvenile delinquents in Butwal has two dingy rooms and 26 beds. But that is not sufficient for all of the 89 delinquents staying in the facility. As many as four juveniles sleep crammed in a single bed while many others sleep on the floor.
As a result of the overcrowding, many suffer from skin-related diseases.
“Last year, it was scabies,” Pitambar Neupane, the office helper, said. “Many kids caught it and are still recovering.” According to Neupane, the facility has the capacity to host 60 children, but it currently houses 89.
Chief of the correctional facility Shubhadra Gautam admitted that the house does not have enough space for all the delinquents.
“The physicians had told us to manage ample space for the children to play, and create an atmosphere where they can study well,” she said. “But the existing environment is definitely not up to that.”
Besides the infrastructural shortcoming, the building also doesn’t have playthings for its inhabitants. It, however, does have a television, the only recreational medium for the children. Gautam said that even though she’s attempted to get the children to learn some skill-set, no help has been forthcoming.
The prison management department, responsible for the upkeep of the facility, allocates a yearly budget of Rs75,000, which is not enough, according to Gautam. “The children are clearly not happy with the current situation,” she said. “But despite repeated calls, no help has come yet.” Gautam cited one instance in winter when she had requested Siddharthanagar Municipality for firewood, but the request went unheeded.
Gautam added that eight of the children are currently studying for exams but they do not have a tutor or enough stationeries.
“I committed a mistake and I don’t have any qualms to bear the punishment,” one child staying in the facility said on conditions of anonymity. “But I’m sad that I have been deprived of a proper environment to study.”
According to existing laws, there should be separate facilities for juvenile delinquents based on their age groups. But here, all are housed at the same facility irrespective of their age. As a result, the younger delinquents are facing more problems, Gautam said. The laws state that children between 10 and 18 years of age should be kept at correctional facilities instead of prison cells.
What is happening at the correctional facility in Butwal is a worrying issue concerning child rights, said Shiva Prasad Gaudel, chair of Children’s Welfare Organisation.
“Even though we have the law in place, there’s nobody to advocate for the rights of the delinquents,” he said.