Tougher visiting rules at state prisons after Nagpur jailbreak

Jun 16, 2015, 06:49 IST | Dharmendra Jore

After five notorious criminals broke out of the Nagpur jail in March and exposed security flaws, the prison department has decided to set up a digital database to keep track of those who visit the inmates

Paperwork is set to get harder for those visiting any of the prisons in the state, with the authorities now building a digital database to keep better tabs on the comings and goings at jails across Maharashtra.

The authorities said the database will help them figure out whether convicts had outside help while breaking out or in smuggling goods. Representation pic/Thinkstock
The authorities said the database will help them figure out whether convicts had outside help while breaking out or in smuggling goods. Representation pic/Thinkstock

Pushed into action after five notorious criminals escaped from the Nagpur central jail in March, the (home) prison department decided to implement the new system to prevent untoward incidents like jailbreaks and smuggling of prohibited material, often done with the help of officials or visitors.

Already, visiting norms are stringent at jails; the prisoners meet visitors in special meeting sections where security personnel keep watch, and the meeting time is specified. However, that did not prevent the prison break at Nagpur.

“The reforms were expedited after a jailbreak in Nagpur,” said a senior Mantralaya officer in the know of the matter, adding that these days jail staffers were also being asked to leave their mobile phones in the office before starting the day’s duty.

The digital database will contain details about people who know and visit inmates at the prisons, with images, residential addresses supported by legal address proof, identity cards like Aadhar, as well as their relationship with the undertrials or convicts they intend to visit. This will replace the manual records that are harder to maintain in long term and can even be manipulated easily.

Dismal record
The state’s track-record in detaining escaped prisoners is dismal; the authorities have been able to nab only 40 of 675 prisoners who escaped in the past 40 years. The government is now also working on measures to track prisoners electronically through radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.

This method is generally used in India to track tigers and other endangered species in forest reserves using the Global Positioning System (GPS). The prison department is not yet sure as to how the tagging of the prisoners will be done.

IT Training
Other than traditional manual tasks that prisoners perform to earn wages, the Prisons Department will soon start computer education for jail inmates to help their rehabilitation after they finish their jail terms.

Inmates who complete certificate courses in IT will be given jobs in the jail labs and paid for it. The inmates will also be asked to enrol in the life insurance scheme that is attached with savings accounts as most of the convicts have bank accounts to which their wages are credited.

Currently, Maharashtra has 9 central prisons, 27 district prisons, 10 open prisons, one open colony and 172 sub-jails, which house more than 28,000 inmates, male and female. There are two separate prisons for women at Pune and Mumbai, and also an open prison for women at Pune. However, almost every facility is overcrowded.

For example, the city’s Arthur Road Jail has a capacity of 800 but it houses about triple the capacity. The department has sought land in Mankhurd to construct a new prison in the city, the Mantralaya official said, adding that construction of jails at Sindhudurg, Jalna, Nandurbar and Gadchiroli was in progress.

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