Sri Lanka Table of Contents
The president has the power to grant a pardon or a stay or commutation of sentence to any offender convicted in any court in Sri Lanka. In cases involving a sentence of death, however, the president is required to seek the advice of both the attorney general and the minister of justice before issuing a pardon. The president also has the authority to pardon the accomplice to any offense, whether before or after the trial, in exchange for information leading to the conviction of the principal offender.
All correctional institutions were administered by the Department of Prisons under the Ministry of Justice. In 1980 the department had a reported staff of approximately 4,000 officers and a total of 28 prisons, including conventional prisons, open prison camps, and special training schools for youthful offenders. The facilities were regulated by the Prisons Ordinance of 1878, and each was headed by a superintendent or assistant superintendent of prisons. Departmental staff are trained at the Centre for Research and Training in Corrections in Colombo. The center, which was established in 1975, provided new recruits a ten-week training course in law, human relations, unarmed combat, first aid, and the use of firearms.
Between 1977 and 1985, the prison population remained relatively stable, averaging 11,500 new admissions each year. More than 75 percent of the new inmates in 1985 had been convicted of minor crimes, and 62 percent were serving sentences of less than six months. Those convicted of serious crimes (including murder, culpable homicide, rape, and kidnaping) represented less than 2 percent of the prison population and, although the number of new convicts sentenced to death fluctuated over this period (between 33 and 81), no prisoners were executed. Men represented more than 95 percent of the prison population, and more than one-third of the nation's prisoners were being held in the Colombo District.
In the 1980s, convicted offenders between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two were being housed at separate correctional facilities and open work camps. Many of them were eligible for admission to the Training School for Youthful Offenders, which provided a special program of rehabilitation. Offenders under sixteen were not accepted into the correctional system.
Because of the small number of female prisoners at any one time, in the 1980s there were no separate institutions exclusively for women. Instead, each of the major prisons had a small women's section staffed by female attendants. All female convicts with terms longer than six weeks were transferred to Welikade Prison in Colombo. Mothers with infants were allowed to keep their children in prison, and a preschool program was established to provide child care during daytime hours.
In the 1980s, all male and female prisoners with terms longer than six months received vocational training during their stay in prison. Training was offered in twenty-two trades, including agriculture, animal husbandry, rattan work, carpentry, and tailoring. Every convicted offender was required to work eight hours each day and received a wage calculated according to the level of skill.
Apart from the correctional system maintained by the Department of Prisons, the armed forces and the police have operated a number of detention camps for suspects arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. According to the United States State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, "there have been persistent reports of torture or ill-treatment by military and police" at these camps, and detainees have been deprived of the legal rights and conditions of incarceration that apply to conventional detention facilities.
Data as of October 1988