In an effort to combat the rising issue of overcrowding in Chamgang jail, open-air prisons (OAPs) seems to be a promising solution.
An official from the Royal Bhutan Police has acknowledged that the Chamgang jail is grappling with an influx of multiple drug cases and other crimes, but OAPs are emerging as a practical remedy to this pressing problem.
The large spate of drug arrests of drug traffickers has increased the numbers at Chamgang jail.
The concept of OAPs was introduced in Bhutan, upon the command of His Majesty The King in 2011.
Prisoners who have served 75 percent of their sentence and have demonstrated good conduct become eligible for transfer to OAPs. Inmates in OAPs enjoy greater freedom compared to traditional prisons.
They also have the opportunity to earn money by participating in community work, maintain closer ties with their families, move freely within the vicinity of the facility, and even use mobile phones.
The OAPs has received widespread acclaim for reducing overcrowding in prisons, and helping inmates to prepare for their reintegration into society. An official overseeing this initiative emphasized its benefits, stating, “The prisoner will get a chance to live a normal life after their release with savings and skills, apart from the freedom they gain.”
Bhutan’s OAPs are not limited to Chamgang; they are strategically located in various regions, including Dawakha Paro (exclusively for female inmates), Paro, Chhukha, Wangdue, Trongsa, Mongar, Sarpang, and Samtse. In a unique approach, inmates at these facilities are engaged in meaningful projects, such as construction work on fortresses and other community initiatives.
Likewise, Bhutan has taken innovative steps in juvenile justice with the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre (YDRC), another form of open-air prison for young offenders.
YDRC helps in providing rehabilitative and reformative education and training for youths in conflict with the law.
YDRC is equipping young offenders with vocational skills, training, education, and counseling to aid in their rehabilitation, offering shelter and support for youths convicted for more than one year. It also prepares young offenders for reintegration into mainstream society as productive members.