Photo courtesy of Daily News


When we aren’t able to give you more room, than you had inside your mother’s womb,

When we ask you to excrete, in a plastic bag, like a dog on the street.


When we only let you hear your family’s voice in a dream,

But even dreams become nightmares, you wake up and stifle a scream,

Because inside your cell, there is no day, it’s always night.

As a prisoner, we have denied you even the sun’s light.


When you spend the night writhing with pain,

Because we’ve hindered you from receiving treatment again.

When you took your own life, lay bleeding on the floor of your cell.

We didn’t notice the light had left your eyes, until it started to smell.


When we turn a blind eye, to the beating marks on your thigh,

When we talk about theory of deterrence, over the sound of your cries.

When we condemn the poor and sick to an indeterminate sentence,

While we offer the privileged, the hospital bed or even a seat in Parliament.


When we say you’ve committed a crime, and deserve to suffer punishment,

While the same crimes are called policies, when committed by the government.

When we erect gallows where you can see them, ignoring your pleading.

Not thinking, not for moment, how it would feel to be in your position.


When we hide the shame of our society, behind high walls with armed security.

When we only spare prisoners a thought, when they start yet another “riot”.

Another fast to death, another roof protest – until you starve yourself, your requests go unnoticed.

The only time we pay attention, is when you become media sensation.

The rest of the time, we walk past without seeing,

The wall which reads, Prisoners Are Human Beings.


When we strip away their dignity, does it make us feel justified?

Is balance restored in society, when prisoners are dehumanised?

Do we feel so vindicated, because this is what they deserve?


When you treat prisoners like animals, is your humanity still preserved?


Learn more about the state of prisons in Sri Lanka from the study conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.