IPSO and a Sense Of Hope

IPSO and a Sense Of HopeIPSO and a Sense Of Hope

Prisoners are lonely, and notwithstanding the increase in the number of prisoner support groups and associations and efforts for the release of those behind bars for non-serious offenses, the inmates remain the most shunned and neglected groups in the society.

While there is reason to be optimistic - statistics point to a declining trend in the number of incarcerations - there are still many who are serving time for reasons as innocuous as the inability to pay ‘mahrieh’ (a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom to the bride upon her request).


Based on the latest figures released in October, the total prisoner population is estimated to be around 205,000, a declining trend as in spring (March-June) there were 210,000 prisoners in jails across the country. In early summer the figure rose to 208,000, according to Fararu website.

Khorasan Razavi Province has the highest number of prisoners with 20,620 detainees. Tehran Province comes next with 20,300 inmates, followed by Fars and Isfahan. At the end of the spectrum is Ilam, a western province with only 1,000 convicts. Other provinces with few incarcerations are North Khorasan and Kohgilooye and Boyer Ahamad Provinces.

 Ray of Hope

Iran’s Prisoners’ Support Organization (IPSO) is a charity institution that works towards the release of men and women jailed for ‘unintentional crimes’ like those held responsible in fatal car accidents or road injuries. It received official status in 1997 with the mission to ‘’plant rays of hope in the hearts of decent people who are imprisoned for less serious crimes such as long pending financial debts.’’ In the organization’s chart posted on their website, the “harmful social ramifications of such imprisonments” are discussed and warned against.  

The ‘third party insurance’ which has relieved thousands of people from going to prison was passed into law largely through the efforts of the IPSO.

 IPSO figures for spring of this year suggest there are 7,983 prisoners who need help to be released.  From among them, 6,241 are convicted of crimes such as bad checks, inability to pay ‘mahrieh’ and other similar wrongdoings.

‘Mahrieh’ alone accounts for 1,863 of convicted fellows serving time in prison. Fars Province with 230 such convictions ranks first in ‘mahrieh’ indictments. There are also 397 men jailed for failing to pay ‘nafaqah’ - the Islamic legal term for financial support which a husband must provide for his wife. It has also been shown that prisoners are ten times more likely to end back in prison for another stint if they do not find employment opportunities upon release.

Nearly 4,860 prisoners are also guilty of dishonored checks, but not deemed fraudulent by the court. Finally, 802 people are serving time for “traffic manslaughter as well as 64 people for workplace accidents.”


Rarely mentioned are those detained in foreign lands. The dark side of immigration, often illegal, is sometimes lengthy prison terms.

‘’ There are 3,500 Iranian nationals jailed abroad every year, one-third of whom are freed with the efforts of the foreign ministry,’’ says Hassan Qashgahvi Iranian deputy foreign minister in charge of consular affairs.

Filthy prison conditions and rude wardens in some countries such as Malaysia are well-known. There are currently 220 Iranians incarcerated in 12 prisons in Malaysia and there are reports of alleged mistreatment, including physical abuse of detainees. Thirty of them are women and the average age of the detainees is 35 years. Most of them have fallen prey to drug trafficking gangs, impossible to track.

The fact that 250,000 prisoners have so far been released in Iran “by the benevolence of philanthropists” and have found decent employment can engender hope for those who are still behind the bars for reasons they would have barely imagined before imprisonment.