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Alumnus safeguarding prison inmates and staff during COVID-19

Posted: 18 November 2021

Pakistan, Alumni, COVID-19, Impact,

Australia Awards alumnus Sajid Baig is a correctional officer specialising in law-enforcement. As Senior Superintendent at the Central Jail in Gujranwala, in the Punjab province of Pakistan, Sajid is currently waging a challenging battle to keep 3000 prisoners and 500 correctional facility staff safe and well during the coronavirus pandemic.

To achieve this, Sajid has implemented numerous preventive and precautionary measures, including the initial medical screenings of  new inmates and the imposing of restrictions on the movement of jail wardens. These public health measures help to reduce the risks of inmates and staff being affected by COVID-19.

“I am responsible for the management of the prison, which includes ensuring the security of inmates and prison staff by carrying out correctional and rehabilitative interventions. During COVID-19, it became a challenging but important task for me to ensure their safety,” Sajid says. “To create an environment conducive to housing inmates without overcrowding, I recommended that the government transfer some of the inmates to less crowded prisons. I also took measures to equip the prison with adequate handwashing facilities, enforced mandatory wearing of face masks amongst inmates and staff, gloves for staff on duty, and implemented social distancing rules as well as health and hygiene protocols in prison dormitories and cells. This has helped us significantly reduce the spread of the virus in the prison.”

Sajid also liaised with the District Health Authority to manage the health of inmates. He initiated a mass vaccination campaign for inmates and prison staff and established a field hospital in prison to treat those who tested positive for COVID-19. The combination of all these measures has proven to be effective. “Consequently, not a single death occurred in the prison due to the coronavirus,” he reports.

Sajid (right) with the Deputy Inspector General of Prison during a visit

Sajid completed his Master of Laws from the University of Melbourne in 2018 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. Since his return, Sajid has been invited to work on the draft of the new Prison Act by the Government of Punjab. He has also worked to improve the living conditions of juvenile and women inmates. Other achievements include upgrading facilities for prison visitors and establishing clinical laboratories in two prisons.

“Interacting with some of the best professors of various disciplines of law and learning from their experiences was quite valuable to me,” says Sajid about his Australian study.

“Some have had the opportunity to represent their countries in drafting international legal instruments and have in-depth firsthand experiences in their respective fields. I learnt a lot from them. I am glad I can use this experience to make a difference in my home country,” he concludes.