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"Second generation" jail reforms needed

A. Subramani

Activists seek sensitisation regime for officials


  • A-class prisoners should meet their expenditure in jail
  • Food ration to inmates should be increased
  • Employment exchanges should be set up for reformed persons

    CHENNAI: Time has come for ushering in "second generation" prison reforms in Tamil Nadu, say activists and advocates, who feel jail officials lack an intense mid-career awareness and sensitisation regime.

    Their suggestions include asking A-class prisoners to meet their expenditure in jail, increasing food ration to inmates, employment exchanges for reformed persons and counselling for HIV positive inmates.

    V. Kannadasan, Special Public Prosecutor for Human Rights Cases, says courts that grant A-class facilities to certain people could ask them to meet their own expenditure.

    They can be asked to deposit an amount, fixed by the Government, for enjoying the special class facilities. As of now, they are entitled to "luxuries" such as tea, newspaper, pillow and non-vegetarian food thrice a week. If vegetarians, they are served ghee, dhal and buttermilk.

    After all courts take into account their social status while granting special class facilities, he says to drive home his point.

    Advocates attending prison adalats say inmates repeatedly complain that the quantity of food is inadequate. It needs to be increased by at least 25 per cent.

    Prisoners are entitled to 100 gram rice for breakfast, 220 gm for lunch and 180 gm for dinner. The menu, however, is the Government's choice.

    Though a convicting court has powers to change diet for individual prisoners, the Superintendent concerned has the last word, as the change is subject to his approval.

    Rehabilitation

    Rehabilitation of convicts/undertrials will be meaningful only if they are gainfully employed after their release, a former prison official says. Probationary Officers and non-governmental organisations must step in to get jobs for reformed convicts.

    Educational facilities must be introduced or upgraded in all jails and more correspondence courses made available.

    Referring to the growing incidence of communicable diseases in jails, an activist suggests that counselling centres be established on jail premises.

    Almost all prisons in the State house at least a few HIV positive inmates, and this underlines the need to subject all inmates to periodical blood test, he says. Volunteers and NGOs involved in AIDS awareness campaigns can be roped in.

    Human rights

    Prison service personnel must be sensitised to the laws governing human rights, the latest rulings of the Supreme Court and the prison manual provisions.

    The demand for limiting the direct recruitment of prison service personnel to the Assistant Jailor level too has been gaining momentum among officials.

    Opposing any move to recruit Superintendent-level officials directly, they say it will affect the efficacy of the administration.

    Pointing out that convicts are entitled to be enlarged on parole for short periods, the activists suggest a similar facility for undertrial prisoners.

    The Superintendent concerned could be entrusted with the responsibility. Parole should be granted only after the conduct of the prisoner concerned was assessed.

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