(MENAFN - Arab News) A number of inmates were injured in a brawl in the Malaz prison in Riyadh on Friday evening.
"The dispute began with a mere exchange of words between the inmates and suddenly escalated into a fight," said Col. Ayyub bin Nahit, spokesman of the prisons' directorate, adding that 45 prisoners of Saudi and Ethiopian origin were injured. Security officials at the prison rushed 25 of the seriously injured inmates to the Security Forces Hospital in the capital, while the remaining 20 received first-aid treatment and were sent back to their wards, according to bin Nahit.
Investigations are currently underway to ascertain the circumstances that provoked the fight.
The spokesman elaborated that all the prisoners involved in the brawl will be kept in isolation, to avoid their interaction with one another and the possibility of another fight breaking out.
Moreover, highlighting the seriousness of the incident, a source from the Red Crescent revealed that nine ambulances transported the injured to the hospital. In a recent statement, Maj. Gen. Ali Al-Harthi, the director general of prisons put the total number of prisoners sentenced in the Kingdom to around 47,000.
The number of Saudi inmates is recorded to be 23,000, while foreigners constitute 24,000 of the Kingdom's prisoners' demography. Al-Harthi added that 47 percent of the inmates were convicted due to drug-related crimes.
According to Al-Harthi, prison authorities are working to ensure the inmates
receive adequate care and are provided with the necessary services, as ordered by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. He also denied reports that inmates were being punished with hard labor.
In order to safeguard the rights of prisoners, the authorities have decided to allow the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) to open permanent offices inside security prisons in Riyadh, Asir, Jeddah, Eastern Province and Qassim, thereby facilitating the direct supervision of these prisons and their detainees, as well as receiving feedback and complaints from prisoners. The move also aims to strengthen the principle of transparency in the treatment
of detainees, in addition to protecting their rights.
Within the same efforts, the government has been stepping up efforts to end the problem of overcrowding in the prison facilities.
According to a statement in 2008 by the NSHR, Jeddah's Briman jail, which has a capacity to withhold 3,700 prisoners, detains 9,300 inmates, a staggering 5,600 more inmates than the facility's capacity.
Meanwhile, thousands of prisoners serving time for minor offenses have been released on special occasions in the past few years.