LAHORE, Pakistan, April 9 (News Lens Pakistan) -- Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab, has decided to train prison staff in criminal psychology in a bid to curb terrorism.
Farooq Nazir, inspector general of Punjab prisons, told News Lens Pakistan in a recent interview that the provincial government decided to treat criminals with therapy after militants massacred 134 schoolchildren as they sat in class at the Army Public School in Peshawar in December.
"About 300 to 350 hardened criminals are currently detained in 36 jails of the province for terrorist activities, sectarian killings and other crimes of a heinous nature who will be given specialized psychological therapy," Nazir said.
In addition, jail staff are being trained to assess inmates' anger and stress levels, background history, criminal tendencies and jail environment.
"The training of jail staff in the first phase covers different topics and is meant to enhance their skills for judging psychology of criminals. The trained staff could then make assessments of the prisoners, citing certain symptoms in the prisoners' behavior, which they have been trained to identify," Nazir said.
In the second phase, the jail officers are to prepare a list of inmates they recommend for therapy and submit the list to psychologists.
"This training aims to reduce crime rate in the society and terrorism from the country," Nazir said.
The training will take place in phases throughout the year and will be held in the four main regional jails. Three officers from selected jails, including the superintendent, deputy superintendent, and assistant superintendents, are being trained by a psychologist.
Criminals suffering mental illnesses will also be provided treatment.
Asad Abbas, the assistant jail superintendent in the remote Jhang district, attended a psychological training session with a Prisons Department psychologist and said it was inadequate.
He told News Lens in a phone interview that three principal jail officers were given just 1½ hours of training by a psychologist in "how to categorize criminals."
"This one exercise is not enough for jail officers handling hardened criminals," he said.
Abbas said the government should appoint separate regular psychologists for male and female inmates. There are no psychologists in most of the jails, including his own, he said.
Federal legislator Marvi Memon, who heads the National Psycho-Social Advisory Council, said the government considered the Peshawar school massacre a wake-up call and decided to introduce reforms in jails, as well as psychological treatment of hardened criminals.
"To resolve mental and psychological problems of criminals, the government would set up psychological trauma centers on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's orders for treatment, rehabilitation and resolving the issues of mental health of criminals so that jails are no longer breeding grounds for criminals," Memon said.
The former head of Punjab police, Malik Muhammad Iqbal, said psychologists are not considered important in Pakistan.
"Our government focuses more on providing vocational training to criminals than on psychological therapy," Iqbal said. "Programs that will lessen the crime rate in society should be encouraged. The government should also announce a remission in jail terms for inmates so they can undergo psychological therapy, as it does with vocational training by inmates."