When I, 1st went to visit a jail, as part of my new official assignment, in the year 2001 and entered the Asia’s largest jail, Tihar Jail Complex, it was a mindboggling, huge, unique, complex and busy world of 14,000 jail inmates & 2,000 people outside the jail waiting from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm to meet their dear ones lodged in the jail complex with so much of noise, pain, waiting patience, hope, queue jumps, pushing and shoving of old, disabled and desolate citizens and groping of women sometimes by wardens and sometimes by anti-social elements of the crowd, waiting to meet their relatives.
After 5:30 pm, each day there shall be another round of meeting of joy, sorrow, pain & misery as inmates leave the jail premises to be among their family members, some inmates are being moved out to be transferred from one jail to another with escorts and some inmates also get released after serving their sentence and become part of the family again, with tears of joy and happiness and hope to regain the same respect, love and of course a decent job. An anxiety looming large on their weather beaten faces. There used to be ‘Bharat Milap’ and ‘Raag Virah’, each day and I have seen and experience them all from very close quarter.
Then another round of inmates come back to jail in police ‘cubicle lockup’ – blue coloured buses, packed liked sardines after their court hearings & finally the last set of new ‘visitors’ come for their abode and peaceful stay in jail as these are remanded to the jail for their stay till their next date of hearing in the court. Some say jail is a safe resort, where one gets both a free lunch and daily dose of medicines. Some pregnant poor ladies do a petty crime and come to jail and deliver a baby in the in house hospital. Amazing!
The problems were many and there was neither the tail of the problem nor the mouth of the problem was easily visible. Thus began an onward journey to computerise jails of the country, where efficiency, transparency, speed of action and simplicity was brought in using technology.
The above effort also brought me in close contact with jail inmates, jail officers and warders, Hon’ble Judges, prosecution officers, lawyers, police officers and constables and little children who live in jails to understand the continuous churning in the minds and to understand the business processes such that inmates are released in time, inmates are presented before the Hon’ble court on the desired date and time and proactive intelligence gathering by the police.
In my long experience, I have learned many things about prison life. It has in fact changed my perception of what I thought prison life was like. In my view, one of the first feelings a new inmate will have is that of shock – the realisation that they are actually in prison may take some time to get seeped in. They will experience isolation, bout of depression and low esteem, being separated from family and friends will be hard and their relationships often suffer as a result.
In fact many things that we as a society take for granted are very significant in the lives of inmates. Many of us take for granted privacy, security, comfort and freedom in homes, when we can eat when we are hungry and can decide what we want to eat, what we want to listen, what we want to read and write and even ponder. We also have our freedom to come and go as we want. In the prison, it truly gave me the impression of how few freedom inmates in prisons have? The inmates were especially excited when they celebrate festivals with large feasts and surrounded by loved ones. They form their own jail band and cut a disc or celebrate a musical night. They can paint and work in factory and earn wages, which can be sent to home. They also get punishment when they commit any mistake. If an inmate commits a heinous crime in the jail, jail superintendent can file a case in the police thana in the jail’s vicinity. A picture in picture case in real life!
Prison is in fact a castle and fight for survival of the fittest in blade fights and wrist cuts and the weaker inmates shall be used, abused and tortured emotionally by the stronger jail lords. To clarify what I mean, many of the weaker inmates are sometimes expected to pay for protection from other inmates as ‘tribute’, or they join prison gang to be safe and they buy peace at a price. Concept of ‘tribute’ is prevalent in jails. Peace is the prerogative of the powerful!
The correctional policy is meant to protect the inmates, their privacy and self-respect. The need for respect, hope and safety contributes to the correctional policy in the following ways: the ability of the staff to provide protection to the inmates to the best of their ability and occurrences that are not seen is not known about.
Furthermore, there is a system of discipline in prison which is administered by the head of the prison and other government departments from outside the prison. Discipline can involve things like increasing the time a prisoner spends in prison before he gets early release, taking away some of someone’s privileges, putting a person in a special unit if he is violent or disruptive and even taking him to court if he has committed a serious crime. The disciplinary procedure must be fair and in some cases the prisoners may have a right to legal advice and representation.
The author had visited nearly 50 plus jails across the country & even abroad and had lot of interaction, the author had with the inmates, who were good fathers, police constables, pipe band masters, electricians, painters, artists, computer engineers & children of the inmates, with film stars and even ministers, the guard of honour at Jodhpur jail or the Puzhal jail or having tea in the highest security cell of prominent inmates of the country are worth noting and points to ponder.
Some sweet, some sour but some memorable lunch at the jail and getting award, the paintings which adore my house all around and from all parts of the country. Even though, I never needed anything but I used to buy small items as souvenirs and appreciation of the inmates hard work and dedication.
Kabhi padharo hamaro desh! A loud voice from the inmates. Ha ha.