Dhaka Central Jail  the oldest and biggest jail in Bangladesh. Mughal subadar Ibrahim Khan built a fort at present Chawk Bazar area in Dhaka, which later became the residence of Naib Nazim of Dhaka. A criminal ward was built inside the fort in 1788 during the rule of east india company which later was converted into the jail. In the late eighteenth century, there were 500 to 550 detainees in ten wards in Dhaka Jail. At the outset, two paisa was allotted as daily food allowance for each of the detainees. In 1790, the food allowance per detainee was increased to one anna. Later on, the jail building was widely extended. The jail is now known as the Dhaka Central Jail. In view of its antiquity and the number of detainees the Dhaka Central Jail is now the largest jail in Bangladesh.

 

Dhaka Central Jail was built on 36.76 acres of land. The interior over area within the perimeter wall measures 17.55 areas of land, and outside area 19.21 acres of land. There are 48 wards, 12 cell building, 233 rooms in the cells, 5 kitchens, 6 work sheds, 4 training sheds for maintenance work, 1 jail bakery, 1 daycare center and a multipurpose shed inside the jail compound. Moreover, there is a two-storied building, which is used for interview of the prisoners with visitors and an office complex adjacent to the main gate.
 
   
Dhaka Central Jail

 

There are 783 officers and employees in the jail including 1 senior jail super, 1 deputy jail super, 1 jailer, 8 deputy jailers, 3 assistant surgeons, 2 pharmacists, 1 senior assistant, 10 jail assistants, 3 senior chief jail guards, 30 chief jail guards, 1 matron and 703 jail guards.

The prisoners brought into the jail are divided into two categories: hajati (temporary detainee) and kaedi (term detainee). The captives are confined under 6 categories such as civil detainee, pending detainee, women detainee, below 21 year-old male detainee, minor male detainee and convicted male detainee. However, the authority decides where the detainees of these categories are to be accommodated.

Dhaka Central Jail has the capacity to hold 2682 prisoners including 8 male prisoners having awarded death-sentence, 5 male detainees, 574 male and 80 female under trial prisoners, 1868 male and 54 female convicted prisoners and 100 male captives on miscellaneous charges. However, at present the prison daily holds prisoners four times of its capacity. 

As per rules, bread and molasses are served to the prisoners at breakfast, boiled rice and vegetables/fish/meat/pulse during launch and dinner. But the 1st and 2nd class prisoners are served with better meal than the general inmates. The sick prisoners are served food according to their nature of disease. Presently a prisoner is supplied 116.64 grams of Atta or (flour), 291.60 grams of boiled rice, 145.80 grams of red-lentils, 14.58 grams of molasses, 291.60 grams of vegetables, 35.52 grams of salt (diet) (ordinary salt 29.16 grams), 5.12 grams of onion (diet) (ordinary 4.10 grams), 2.27 grams of chili (diet) (ordinary 1.82 grams), 1.13 grams of turmeric powder (diet) (ordinary 0.91grams), 0.056 grams of coriander power (diet) (ordinary 0.045 grams), 22.77 grams of edible oil (diet)  (ordinary-18.22 grams) and 72.90 grams of fish (diet) (ordinary mutton) per day.

Although Hajati or temporary detainees are given the equal amount of food, they are given 87.48 grams of Atta, 247.86 grams of boiled rice and beef, instead of mutton. In every Friday, each detainee is given 349.92 grams of fuel wood, 14.58 grams of cloth washing soda, 10.92 grams of mustard oil and 29.16 grams of coconut oil (for female detainee), one soap for female head in every month. Although the quantum of fuel wood to the Hajati and coconut oil and soap to the females are equal to the prisoners or (Detainee for terms), the detainees are supplied 10.92 grams of soda and 3.64 grams of mustard oil.

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists have been engaged for the treatment of the inmates of the Dhaka Central Jail. There is a hospital in the prison compound. The detainees may buy fruits, toiletries, dry food, tea, singara, samucha, puri etc from the canteen of the prison by their earned money deposited in their names to the jail authority.

Training and education program  Prisoners are imparted training inside the compound of jail to enhance their skill. The female prisoners are taught stitching, tailoring, quilt-stitching, making of paper bag, shopping bag, and envelope and the male prisoners are offered training on maintenance and repair of electronic goods, paper packets, writing banners and signboard, fish farming. The profits they earn by means of hard-labour are deposited to their respective accounts, and with this money the prisoners may purchase foods from the jail canteen. In addition, they may deposit the money for future.

Dhaka Central Jail arranges literacy program for the illiterate detainees. Even it provides religious education. In this regard, the captives are endowed with general as well as religious education by the jail teacher and Imam of the Jail Mosque.

Day-care Centre  A day-care center was set up there on 30 June 2004. The center has 100 seats for the infants, where they are provided with balanced diet from the budget of the jail. The children are offered religious and primary education in separate groups:  play, nursery and pre-primary. This center has toys including carom, ball, ludu, badminton, cradle and dolls for the children. Apart from these, the children are given opportunity to watch television, VCD, cartoon, dances and music, recitation of rhyme and paintings. One officer from Department of Social Welfare and an assistant nurse serve there on deputation. Besides, two medical assistants from the Department of Health, two teachers from the Department of Women’s Affairs, two female prison-guards from the Department of Prisons, five Ayas or maidservants and four sweepers are engaged in the daycare center.

Library facilities  The Central Jail library has  a stock of various books on religion and literature. The prisoners may borrow books for acquiring knowledge as well as to pass the leisure.

Darbar System  Darbar System is a traditional open house interactive session introduced in the central jail. With the Darbar System, participation of all responsible officers and employees of the prison are ensured. By this program, the employees of the jail get the opportunity to put forward their demands or complaints to the higher authority. In order to eliminate corruption in the jail, Darbar System plays a significant role.  The concerned DIG chairs the Darbar and conducts hearing.

Gallows  There is a gallows in Dhaka Central Jail in order to hang the prisoner awarded death-sentence. As per Jail Code, the execution is done on the presence of concerned officials including a first class magistrate, a doctor and a jail super. Once the day is fixed up for the execution, the person is medically checked up by the doctor and thereafter the jallad or the hang man carries him to the gallows for hanging. 

Bangabandhu and four leaders jail museum  Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was confined in Dhaka Central Jail for a long time. In his memory, Dewani cell of the jail has been transformed into a museum. There is enough space outside the cell, but on the other hand, the inside is very congested. Here, personal belongings of Bangabandhu have been kept for display with lebels affixed on those indicating the time frame of usage of the goods.  In order to know about the Jail life of Bangabandhu, a library has been set up there. A statue of Bangabandhu has been installed in the open space. Goods used by Bangabandhu such as prayer cot, prayer mat, pot for ablution, a cage of Myna bird, bed sheet, tin-made plate, cooking pot, cup-plate, small wooden reading table, wooden chair, some old clothes and cookers have been put on display in front of the cell. In the premise of the museum, six pillars were erected each of which symbolises the historic six points, credentials of freedom of the Bangalee. Trees of Kamini flower and Sofeda fruit planted by Bangabandhu inside the jail compound are kept as it was. The bathroom and kitchen used by him have also been included with the Museum.

Another museum was set up inside the Dhaka Central jail as a mark of respect to four national leaders: Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Captain Mansur Ali and AHM Kamruzzaman, where they were mercilessly killed. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Memorial Museum of Bangabandhu and four leaders on 9 May 2010.

Considering the rush of old Dhaka, over crowded situation, security crisis in the prison and ever-increasing number of prisoners, too phases of the Dhaka Central Jail have been constructed at Kashimpur in the district of Gazipur. As per the Jail Code, a prisoner is entitled to enjoy 36 sft of space in a ward for sleeping. Since the Dhaka Central Jail accommodates about ten thousand prisoners with capacity of 2682 prisoners so they are compelled to pass the night standing, sitting and sleeping by turns.  In order to lessen the pressure, the jail is now planning to be shifted to Keranigonj.  [ASM Jahurul Islam]

Also see  JAIL.