State may track prisoners with microchip implants to curb jailbreaks

Maharashtra is looking to curb the number of jailbreaks happening across the state; authorities have been able to nab only 40 of 675 prisoners who have escaped from various jails in the past 40 years

Alarmed by the recent jailbreak in which five notorious prisoners escaped from the Nagpur Central prison, where the authorities have also found over 100 mobile phones in possession of inmates or hidden in the jail premises, the state Home Department is planning stricter technological measures such as electronic tagging of prisoners to prevent any untoward incidents like these daring escapes.

The Yerawada Central Prison near Pune. File pic
The Yerawada Central Prison near Pune. File pic

mid-day has learned from informed sources in the government that one of the measures that the department is planning is to track the prisoners electronically through radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. This method is used in India for tracking tigers and other endangered species in forest reserves, in tandem with a Global Positioning System (GPS).

However, the (home) prisons department is not yet sure as to how the tagging of the prisoners will be done. A senior official in Mantralaya said a high-level panel of bureaucrats and experts was mulling a suitable method and would submit its report by this weekend.

He said the prisoners will carry microchips also known as ‘spychips’ on their person or the chips will be implanted surgically under their skin. The microchips will have all the data pertaining to the respective prisoner. The jail authorities will be asked to record pictures, voice samples and biometrics of inmates when they are admitted to the facility.

Poor record
The state’s track record in nabbing escaped prisoners is dismal. Authorities have been able to nab only 40 of 675 prisoners who have escaped from various jails in the past 40 years.

Another serious concern that the prisons department faces is excessive use of mobile phones from behind the high walls. It has proved that corrupt jail staffers help criminals in procuring phones inside high-security facilities.

Also, phone jammers installed inside are rendered useless in connivance with the staffers. To check this, the authorities are trying to make the jammers tamper-proof, said the official.

State prisons
>> Maharashtra has nine central prisons, 
>> 27 district prisons, 
>> 10 open prisons, 
>> 1 open colony, 
>> 172 sub-jails, which house more than 28,000 male and female inmates

There are two separate prisons for women in Pune and Mumbai. There is also one open prison for women in Pune. Almost every facility is overcrowded. For example, the city’s Arthur Road Jail has a capacity of 800, but it houses about thrice the number of inmates.

The department has sought land in Mankhurd for constructing a new prison for the city, the official said, adding that construction of jails at Sindhudurg, Jalna, Nandurbar and Gadchiroli was in progress.

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