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China Quake & Jail Terms
|by Rajesh Talwar|
The Hari Putar Dialogues - 12
(Beijing (Reuters) 3rd July
Putar: According to a report by Reuters the news agency hundreds of prisoners in China's quake hit southwestern province of Sichuan have had their jail terms reduced.
Hari: That's right, putar.
Putar: Some of the prisoners showed great courage in the relief effort.
Hari: That is correct, putar.
Putar: It was not only criminals accused of minor offences that were granted a reprieve, but also some accused of serious offences. One such prisoner, jailed for murder, was released on probation for carrying a handicapped inmate to safety after May's 7.9 magnitude quake.
Hari: That is true, putar. According to the report this particular prisoner Hong knew that the roof of the building could collapse any moment, but he ignored the danger to his own life to save a person who was crying for help. Such a courageous act deserves a reward.
Putar: The earthquake was a great tragedy killing 70,000 people and rendering ten million homeless according to official figures.
Hari: That's true, putar.
Putar: But it turned out to be a windfall for those prisoners who participated in the relief effort and could secure an early release. It gave an opportunity for many criminals to show their human side.
Hari: That's true, putar.
Putar: And also for the Chinese Government to show their human side to the world, and that too just before the Olympics.
Hari: Of course China is focusing on improving their image before the Olympics, putar. But these two events may not be related at all.
Putar: How about China's proposed discussions with the Dalai Lama? Will that achieve some results or is that simply an exercise in public relations till such time that the Olympics are over?
Hari: Difficult to say anything, putar.
Putar: In Bangladesh too hundreds of prisoners were released last week.
Hari: Yes, but that was because of the overcrowding of prisons.
Putar: Prisons are supposed to comply with Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, but a large number of prisons in the world don't measure up to those standards.
Hari: That's certainly true, putar.
Putar: Living in a prison in some Western countries can be very comfortable I'm told.
Hari: I believe so, putar
Putar: Should the sentence imposed on a criminal have a relation to the level of comfort that a prison can provide?
Hari: That's a thought, putar. The Indian Government could ask the Law Commission to prepare a report on the subject.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: Do you think that most Bangladeshi prisoners would prefer to live in European jails if they were given a choice?
Hari: I would imagine that to be the case. It is true though that many poor, homeless people in different parts of the world might actually prefer to live in a European jail, where they would be assured of food, water and a place to sleep.
Putar: But hardly any European prisoner would like to serve time in a Bangladeshi jail.
Hari: That's also true, putar.
Putar: And what if there was a possibility of early release due to overcrowding?
Hari: I don't know, putar.
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