Life behind bars | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Life behind bars

She is strong, logical and speaks her mind. But, Upneet Lalli, deputy director, Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh, says she broke down on occasions when she was clicking pictures of prisons and inmates for record keeping.

chandigarh Updated: Apr 28, 2013 12:41 IST
Navleen Lakhi

She is strong, logical and speaks her mind. But, Upneet Lalli, deputy director, Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh, says she broke down on occasions when she was clicking pictures of prisons and inmates for record keeping. These photos are now a part of a two-day exhibition, From Cage to Correction, which was inaugurated at Punjab Kala Bhawan, Sector 16, Chandigarh, on Saturday.

The purpose of putting up the exhibition, says Upneet, is to break stereotypes about prisons and prisoners. “I wanted to show what life is like in Indian prisons and educate people about the closed and inaccessible world of prison,” says Upneet, adding, “Almost 65% of those in jail are undertrails and very few are convicts. Since December, I had been mulling using my audio-visual notes and turning them into an exhibition.

These photographs take you through the architecture of prisons in 14 states, life inside areas such as the kitchen, artisans at work,
art created by prisoners, sports and cultural activities that go on inside and the gallows.”

Upneet also raises certain questions through the photo display, such as the purpose of prisons. “Crime and its prevention have no easy answers and how we deal with those who offend should be based on an informed opinion. We cannot have any reforms unless the society debates and contributes to change. Crime is a complex phenomenon. Certain factors in the society force people to commit crime,” opines Upneet.

Recalling her first visit to a prison, the lady, who has chosen to remain single, says, “The first time I visited a prison 10 years ago, I was filled with a feeling of apprehension as soon as the doors shut behind me. For instance, in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, when I entered the premises, I thought I had come to a fair after seeing prisoners dancing. But not every visit is a pleasure trip. At times, these visits also convince you about the failure of prisons. Juvenile homes are also in horrid conditions. So, you don’t always feel brave during visits, there are times when they intimidate you. I was convinced that I have to lift the veil.”

Every picture reminds her of the conversations she had with the prisoners.

“I used to get emotional at some junctures, like once when children from Bangladesh, whom I had photographed in a prison, pleaded with me to take them out. But I couldn’t cry in front of them. Such times made me forget about photography,” says Upneet.


Interestingly, the exhibition also includes artifacts including Kashmiri handicrafts, recycled paper products, art and crafts prepared by prisoners of Kot Balawar jail in Jammu and district jail, Karnal.