Jail authorities in Bihar are putting in place a hi-tech surveillance system that will enable them to maintain round-the-clock watch on inmates of all 56 jails in the state.
But that is not all there is to the authorities’ scheme of things. They are also preparing a database that will enable them to track the inmates over a lifetime, if required.
“Not only are the details of all inmates, comprising both under-trials and convicts, to be fed into a databank, even their visitors will have to register on-line to meet the prisoners at a scheduled date and time,” said an official.
Being introduced in the state under the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, the new scheme will facilitate central monitoring of the state’s jails from prison headquarters (HQ) in the state capital.
“In effect, officers at prison department HQ in Patna will be able to access any information from any jail, and if required, issue directions it may deem fit,” said inspector general of police (prisons) Anand Kishore.
A biometric system will also be set up after recording voice samples and fingerprints of all inmates besides using their photographs.
“The new system has already been tried at Beur jail in the outskirts of Patna. We are now ready to extend it to the remaining 55 jails within the next three months,” Kishore said.
A jail officer said computerisation under EPR, involving a total cost of Rs. 4.5 crore, would cover management of gate, stock, accounts, personnel, wages, arms and ammunitions and hospital, among many heads.
While some of the jails have already installed CCTV, Kishore said the prison department was in the process of introducing the same in the remaining jails. All eight central jails in Bihar will have a controlling officer each, too.
“Each new inmate will be provided a unique identity number while each visitor will be provided a computerized pass with their personal details, photo, fingerprint and address,” said Kishore.
The state government will provide six computers each to eight central jails, four each in 32 divisional jails and 3 each in 16 sub jails.
The IG said the ERP system would bring about transparency in the functioning of jails and leave little scope for complaints of irregularities. Others saw it as an effort to obtain a tighter grip on jailed criminals.
“These moves remind of the words from the iconic 1977 song ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles: You can check out any time you like but you can never leave,” said another official.