For decades, prisoners are only allowed to buy 2-3 newspapers inside the jail, which is approved by the authorities concerned. When Gen Hussain Muhammad Ershad was in power, prisoners were allowed to read daily newspapers such as Ittefaq, Bangladesh Times and Dainik Bangla inside the prison.
Currently though prison authorities do not allow the prisoners watching any of the private television channels, it is allowing the prisoners in reading anti-government newspapers, while pro-government newspapers are even banned in some of the prisons. The culture of allowing anti-government newspapers inside the prison was first introduced by Mahbub the then jailer of Dhaka Central Jail in 2012. Mahbub, hailing from Narayanganj district was falsely propagating himself as the “son of the Prime Minister”. According to sources, by making such false claims, Mahbub has made hundreds of millions of taka through numerous forms of corruption. He was making more than three million taka every month only from the Prisoner’s Cash (PC) canteen inside the prison by leasing it out to a person named Jahangir. It was also learnt; though Jahangir was doing this business, major shareholder in his business was BNP leader Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu. As jailer Mahbub used to take huge amount of money from the sale proceeds of the PC canteen every day, prices of goods sold in the PC store and PC canteen were four-five times the retail price.
After Awami League came to power in 2009, jailer Mahbub has purchased properties worth few billion taka in Narayanganj and adjacent areas.
Jailer Mahbub was also operating drug-syndicates inside the prison through top-terrorist Arman and Freedom Rashu thus making millions of taka every month.
Anti-government newspapers were replaced with pro-government newspapers in Kashimpur Central Jail, Part-Two by the then Senior Superintendent Md. Jahangir Kabir. During his tenure as the Superintendent of Kashimpur Central Jail, Part-Two, Md. Jahangir Kabir was maintaining healthy relations with Jamaat-e-Islami’s leader Mir Quashem Ali, BNP leader Mahmudur Rahman, Tarique Rahman’s friend Giasuddin al Mamun, and was receiving monthly payment from them. Superintendent Md. Jahangir Kabir and jailor Nashir Hussain had turned Kashimpur Central Jail, Part-Two into their profit-making venture by extending numerous forms of luxuries to BNP-Jamaat men as well as under-trial prisoners in bank and MLM company scams. They also were operating drug-syndicates inside the prison thus making millions of taka every month.
At Kashimpur Part-4 High Security Jail, pro-government and anti-government newspapers were allowed by its jailer Jannatul Farhad who was reportedly on monthly payroll of Jamaat-e-Islami. Jailer Farhad had accorded special facilities to war criminal and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Matiur Rahman Nizami and Nizami was living a luxurious life at the Nilgiri building in that jail. Despite the fact of being a nefarious war criminal, Matiur Rahman Nizami was allowed to communicate with his party cadres outside the prison with the help of his Shebok Monir. Monir is a life-term convict hailing from Cumilla district.
Commenting on corruption inside prison service and allowing anti-government newspapers to the prisoners, an assistant senior prison guard named ‘TM’ [initials of the full name] told this correspondent, prisons in Bangladesh are now amongst the most corrupt sectors. Every member of the prison service is eager in making money. Recently Sohel Rana Biswas, jailor of Chattogram Central Jail was arrested with 4.4 million taka in cash, bank fixed-deposit documents of 50 million taka and bank cheques totaling around 13 million taka. All of these amounts were earned by Sohel Rana through corruption and dealing in narcotics inside the jail.
Sohel Rana Biswas was indulged in unbridled corruption and sold drugs in collusion with other jail officials including the Deputy Inspector General Prasanta Kumar Banik.
Prison situation improving:
Following publication of an investigative report in Blitz, former Inspector General of Prison Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin was transferred and Brigadier General A K M Mustafa Kamal Pasha replaced him. After joining the post, Brig Gen Mustafa Kamal Pasha has been visiting various prisons in the country and personally talking to the prisoners to learn about any irregularity or corruption. He also is maintaining strict vigilance over the prisons through the prison intelligence wing and taking stern action whenever he is getting any specific allegation of corruption of the prison officials and staffs as well effectively combating dealing in drugs inside the prisons. Brigadier General A K M Mustafa Kamal Pasha has also strictly instructed the prison officials to refrain from selling goods at an exorbitant price in the PC stores and canteens. Additionally, the newly appointed Inspector General of Prison has issued directive to the physicians in the prison to refrain from taking monthly payment from the fake patients thus housing them into prison hospitals.
Despite remarkable improvement in the prisons following joining of Brigadier General A K M Mustafa Kamal Pasha, there still is any directive issued by the Directorate of Prison mentioning names of the newspapers allowed inside the prisons.