Over 19,000 people detained in Jordan currently — Interior Minister

Minister of Interior Mazen Faraya. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Minister of Interior Mazen Faraya told Lower House members during a parliamentary address on Sunday that the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Centers can accommodate 13,288 inmates, while the actual number of people in prisons in Jordan currently is 19,140, which makes its occupancy rate 144 percent.اضافة اعلان

Deputy Ghazi Thneibat, member of the Lower House Legal Committee, asked the minister what is the total number of inmates that can be held in Jordan’s correction and rehabilitation centers, a question prompted by the possibility that legal penalties might be re-imposed on Jordanian debtors in the near future.

A study by Human Rights Watch, titled “We lost everything”, released in March 2021, revealed the tough reality and formidable legal obstacles that many borrowers may face in Jordan.

The report stated that “about 16 percent of Jordan’s prison population was locked up for nonpayment of loans and bounced checks in 2019”, and that “over a quarter-million Jordanians face possible imprisonment due to debt delinquency”. This gives some insight into why the occupancy rate in prisons in Jordan has been steadily increasing over the past few years.

Commissioner General for Human Rights Alaeddin Armouti told Jordan News that “the latest prison statistics revealed by the Minister of Interior are an indication that the prison population in Jordan is becoming rather overcrowded”.

“This is problematic, because a higher occupancy rate in our prison systems will most likely mean that managing these inmates will become a more complex and daunting challenge in the future. An occupancy rate of 144 percent is a clear sign that our prisons are most probably operating in a manner that is beyond their maximum capacity. We have criticized this in the latest report on human rights released by the National Center for Human Rights,” he said.

Armouti said that much of the prison population includes people who have been administratively detained for different reasons, such as organizing illegal protests and political movements, and some have been arrested for speeches.

“Jordanians have the right to peacefully assemble; it is a right protected by the Constitution. We must remember this before we mistreat anyone for their views and opinions,” he said.

Article 15 of the Jordanian Constitution states: “The State shall guarantee freedom of opinion. Every Jordanian shall be free to express his opinion by speech, in writing, or by any means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law.”

Jordanian lawyer and human rights activist Samir Jarrah said “the current prison occupancy rate, 144 percent, is concerning. This is a very high number. The capacity of our rehabilitation centers is not quite organized, at the moment. In my opinion, the option of using alternative punishments and penalties, besides prison, should have been more extensively explored over the past few years. Some of these alternatives include mandating community service work, instead of putting individuals in prisons, for example”.

Jarrah noted that the Ministry of Justice has some reports on its website that outline some of these alternative punishments, and that implementing these alternative measures can partially solve the issue of prison overcrowding.

He also said that “some estimates show that it is costing the Treasury nearly JD100 per day to deal with each prisoner, and this is mostly spent on guarding and subsistence fees related to inmates”.

Recidivists, or second-time perpetrators of the same crime are particularly vulnerable to stricter penalties from the justice system, he said, and they make up a sizable portion of the prison population in Jordan.

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