Executive Powers of Pardon and Commutation
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.
Penal Institutions and Trends in the Prison Population
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