Bangladesh to Move Ahead with 8,400-bed Jail
(11/17/2008)

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Construction of the largest jail in Bangladesh could soon resume after courts resolved compensation lawsuits filed by landowners of the proposed project site.

The High Court lifted an injunction against the 8,400-bed Keraniganj jail project after disposing of several lawsuits filed by landowners claiming compensation for the loss of their properties.

In March, the High Court’s injunction brought a halt to pre-construction work on the new jail, which is planned to replace the severely overcrowded Dhaka Central Jail. That facility houses almost 10,000 inmates, but only has a 2,700-inmate capacity, officials say.

The Keraniganj jail complex will have a central compound with two 4,000-bed units for male inmates, a 200-bed annex housing unit for female inmates and a 200-bed hospital unit. The project is master planned for future expansion that could double housing capacity, officials say.

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The central jail in Dhaka is the largest facility in the Bangladesh jail system, which houses almost 90,000 inmates in 67 facilities with a combined design capacity of 27,500 beds.

Between 1981 and 2000, the inmate population increased from approximately 20,000 inmates to almost 60,000 inmates, while housing capacity increased from about 16,000 beds to almost 24,000 beds, according to reports.

Government efforts to increase housing capacity and ease overcrowding have failed to keep pace with the accelerated growth in the jail population of recent years — the inmate population increased to more than 68,000 inmates by the end of 2006 and more than 85,000 inmates by mid-year 2007, according to official figures.

The Keraniganj jail replacement project was first proposed by the government in 2005. Completion of the approval process and acquisition of the 194-acre wetlands site delayed the start of the project until 2007, officials say.

With construction work expected to take at least five years — large tracts of the site are under water, requiring an extensive and lengthy process of land in-fill and recovery — the new jail complex is unlikely to be ready to house inmates before 2015, officials says.

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