File - Inmates at the Roumieh Prison. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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Treading carefully across the damp floor of the central chamber linking a cluster of crowded, dingy bedrooms in Roumieh prison, Ayoub al-Alayan smiled slightly as he unlocked the door to his private cell.Alayan was 21 when he committed the crime, his first offense. He has since spent eight years in jail awaiting a final verdict, six of them in the notorious Roumieh prison. Worst of all, just one of Lebanon's 22 prisons was built to be a prison.At the bottom of the problems with Lebanon's prisons is a very simple fact: there are too many people in them.According to Machnouk, there are some 7,800 prisoners nationwide occupying prisons with a total capacity of 2,400 . Roumieh Prison alone holds between 2,500 and 3,000 inmates but is only designed for around 1,500 people, according to Khiam, and Baabda women's prison is home to 90 prisoners when it should contain just 20 . Both more prisons and more judges would help, but no one knows when that will happen.For many, however, prison reform is an irrelevance.
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