`Jammers' sought to prevent use of cell phones in jails
By B.S. Ramesh
The Department of Prisons has sent a proposal to the Government for the installation of electronic "jammers" in the main prisons, including the sprawling open-air jail at Parappana Agrahara here, to prevent use of mobile telephones and other electronic gadgets.
The proposal follows repeated allegations that some prisoners are using mobile phones to make and receive calls from the prison premises.
Although the Department of Prisons sent a proposal for installation of jammers more than a year ago, there has been no response. However, recent allegations that the main accused in the fake stamp paper racket, Karim Lala, is using mobile telephones from the jail, have made the department send the proposal once again.
Jammers have a range of 40 km., and the National Informatics Centre is reported to have asked the Department of Prisons to deposit Rs. 1 lakh for carrying out preliminary experiments on installing jammers. Each jammer is expected to cost around Rs. 1 lakh.
Sources in the Home Department say small jammers have been installed on an experimental basis, and that the Government will consider the proposal for installing jammers in all centrals jails.
Apart from the Bangalore Central Jail, there is a proposal to instal jammers in the jails at Mysore, Belgaum, Bellary, Gulbara, and Bijapur. A jammer has been sought for the Bangalore jail on the grounds that a large number of white-collar criminals are confined there.
The Department of Prisons says that a part of the expenditure on the installation of jammers can be met from the funds released by the Union Government to the department every year under the modernisation programme. On an average, the Centre releases Rs. 30 lakh to Rs. 40 lakh annually. This is apart from the funds for the regular schemes and plans of the department.
The State Government has not been able to match the Central grant due to the funds crunch. Senior officials of the department hope that the Government will release funds expeditiously following the controversy over the stamp paper racket. Besides jammers, the department has sought funds for the installation of closed-circuit colour television (CCTV) system in prisons to improve security.
Sources say the CCTV experiment has been carried out by the Department of Prisons in Andhra Pradesh. A similar experiment in Karnataka is to be taken up soon.
Denying reports that Karim Lala uses mobile phones from the jail, officials of the Department of Prisons say inspections and surprise checks yielded no such gadget.
However, Karim Lala and other prisoners may have used cell phones when they were being escorted out of the prison, or when they were being taken to hospitals and clinics. The complicity of the lower rung staff of the department in allowing Karim Lala to use the phones is not ruled out.
On the luxurious facilities enjoyed by prisoners, officials say undertrials are entitled to order their own food, and wear their own clothes (under Rule 697) if they can afford them. The prison rules on food and clothing only applied to convicts, they add.
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