The Iraqi Ministry of Justice is planning to start construction in 2013 on a model prison in Babil province that will house more than 20,000 inmates, according to ministry officials.
"The ministry just finished a full study of the project based on the latest technical specifications," said Haider al-Saadi, official spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice.
"The prison will accommodate more than 20,000 inmates and this large capacity will allow us to relocate all the ministry’s inmates and close temporary prisons," he added.
The new prison will have a special section for female inmates, halls for reading, practicing hobbies and sports activities, as well as professional and behavioural rehabilitation centres in line with international human rights standards, according to al-Saadi.
He said the ministry is holding discussions with the Ministries of Planning and Finance to allocate sufficient funds to begin construction in early 2013. Officials set a target completion date for late 2016 or early 2017.
Al-Saadi said the ministry, based on available funding, will rehabilitate all its central prisons. The ministry currently supervises 30 facilities that house an estimated 28,000 male inmates and 800 females.
"The gates of all these prisons will remain open at any time for legal advocates, human rights organisations and the media to see the conditions of the inmates in them," al-Saadi said.
"There were several inspection visits by members of the parliamentary committee on human rights and international organisations such as the Red Cross, who praised the level of progress the ministry prisons have reached," he added.
Officials made it a priority to improve the skills among prison staff members.
"Since the beginning of 2012, the ministry sent dozens of staff members to work in prisons in the European Union and to attend training courses on how to treat and reform inmates, and promote the principles of human rights," al-Saadi said.
Sallama al-Khafajy, a member of the Independent Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, praised the construction of the prison in Babil province.
"As members who are responsible for following up on the state of prisoners and protecting their rights, we applaud the construction of this prison facility because it represents a positive step on the Justice Ministry's part," she said.
"Building more model prisons will help in providing appropriate conditions for detention and temporary imprisonment that comply with the standards of human rights and meet the inmates' needs for health, rehabilitation, and correctional care until the conclusion of their terms," al-Khafajy said.
Ashwaq al-Jaff, a member of the Iraqi parliament's human rights committee, welcomed the project and described it as a positive step.
"The majority of the current prisons are old buildings, and it has become necessary to modernise them and build new ones with model specifications consistent with international standards," she said.
"The committee believes that building the Babil prison facility with such a large capacity is a good step that will help improve inmate conditions and contribute towards Iraq's commitment to international human rights conventions," al-Jaff said.