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Father's Day at Yerwada: Pune jail inmates' children will visit their dads

On Thursday, the Pune prison will allow male inmates to hug their children and spend 45 minutes with them. Frequency may increase if project succeeds; 212 kids will arrive to spend quality time with their fathers

Pune: Fathers in Pune’s Yerwada jail are eagerly looking forward to July 14. That’s the day these men, some of whom have been in jail before their children were even born, will get to hug and even play with them for a full 45 minutes. Prison authorities confirmed that 212 children will be arriving to meet their dads on Thursday. Women inmates are allowed to keep very young children with them.

 
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Beginning as a pilot project, the Prison Department is hoping it will go some way in helping reform prisoners. Depending on how the July 14 get-together goes, the idea will be implemented either on a monthly or quarterly basis in jails across Maharashtra.

Yerwada Jail, which currently houses nearly 5,000 inmates, allows them to meet family or friends in the Mulakaat Room, where the two are separated by a steel barrier. If the no-holds-barred experiment is successful, it will be implemented across other state prisons
Yerwada Jail, which currently houses nearly 5,000 inmates, allows them to meet family or friends in the Mulakaat Room, where the two are separated by a steel barrier. If the no-holds-barred experiment is successful, it will be implemented across other state prisons

The brain behind this plan is DGP (Prisons) Dr Bhushankumar Upadhyay. He has called it Prerna Path [path to inspiration], under which children of convicts will not only be able to see their parents, but can even hug and play with them. The current practice is that inmates meet family members in a special room, called the Mulakaat Room, where they are separated by a steel net and can only speak to each other through it.

There are more than 4,600 convicts and undertrials at Pune’s Yerwada Central Prison. Women inmates are allowed to keep their young children with them. File pic
There are more than 4,600 convicts and undertrials at Pune’s Yerwada Central Prison. Women inmates are allowed to keep their young children with them. File pic

Explaining Prerna Path, DIG (Prisons) Swati Sathe, said, “On July 14, children of convicts will meet their parent inside the jail for 45 minutes. We have arranged a room inside the prison where inmates can interact with their children. Later, the children will travel to the Savitribai Phule Pune University campus where NGOs have planned a cultural event.”

At present, there are more than 4,600 convicts and undertrials at Pune’s Yerwada Central Prison, of which 4,200 are men. Usually, the inmates’ families (two members each) are allowed to meet them in prison every two months, for 15 minutes.

Prisoners’ families are thrilled with the idea. Sajada Pathan was pregnant when her husband was convicted for chain snatching. She said, “Our son is now three years old and he often asks me about his father. One day, he got to know from a friend that his father was in prison and ever since he has been insisting that I take him to meet his father. I took him to court, and my heart broke when he asked me ‘Ammi, which one is my father?’ My son was traumatised to see his father in handcuffs. Under this new plan, my son can meet and even play with his father.”

Another woman from Solapur, who did not wish to give her name because he husband has been convicted in a murder case, said, “My daughter is 10 years old and an NGO takes her to meet her father in jail sometimes. But, she has to travel a long distance and once there, has to wait, sometimes for hours, before she can talk to him for just 15 minutes. The meeting room is so noisy that we can barely hear him. Under the new plan, we can at least get to speak to him properly,” she said.

Upadhyay said, “For the past eight months, we have been organising lectures in our prisons by famous personalities who have become successful despite facing huge struggles. We have had scientists like Dr Ragunath Masalkar and Dr Jayant Narlikar, writers, film personalities, singers and others. While interacting with them, prisoners wept and expressed regret for their crimes. The idea for Prerna Path came from there. We decided to adopt a more humane approach in their punishment and in the hope that this will help reform them, we decided to let them meet and play with their children.”

He added, “Prisoners themselves are constantly telling us that they wish they could hug and play with their children. So, we made a list of male prisoners and later connected with their families through Pune-based NGOs Bhoi Foundation and Aadharsh Mitra Mandal, and identified 212 children who wanted to meet their fathers.”

UT Pawar, superintendent of Yerwada jail, said, “Every time we make some humane changes in the jail, we notice a subtle behavioural change in inmates. Being in prison is not the end of the world. There is an immense scope for reform and we would like to give these men and women another chance to have a better life.”

'Good for morale'
Dr Sagar Mundada, psychiatrist at JJ Hospital, says interaction with one’s children always has a positive impact on a person. “For inmates, this interaction will be of immense benefit as it will prevent them from giving in to negative feelings and behaviour. This will also improve their psychological well-being and could even result in early release.”

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