In 2010, after some politicians visiting Arthur Road jail were stunned by the plush lifestyle led by gangsters there, a slew of measures were ordered to standardise facilities and improve security inside jails across the state.
All prisons were to have mobile jammers and CCTVs to ensure that gangsters did not continue to run rackets.
But three years hence, little has changed and security in prisons across Maharashtra remains lax, as proven by the recent attack on Abu Salem.
Last week, the Mumbai crime branch sent a report to the home department about extortion rackets being run from jails after it found that gangsters Sachin Khambe and Sachin Shette, lodged in Nashik jail, had made extortion calls to Vakola corporator and developer Brian Miranda in May this year.
When they were questioned, the police learnt that inmates managed to smuggle cell phones and SIM cards into the jail using various methods, including hiding SIMs in biscuit packets and in their mouths.
Officials said the prisoners’ accomplices would steal SIM cards and mobile handsets and throw them over the jail wall. “If the number was traced, it would be traced to some person unconnected with the accused,” an official explained.
Apart from using cell phones, messages are passed on during court hearings or through visitors, the officer said.
Similarly, in a case registered this May, the crime branch booked top Chhota Rajan aide Yusuf Bachkana for making extortion calls to builder Rajaram Majavkar, from a Karnataka jail, where he was serving his sentence.
After the builder refused to pay, Bachkana allegedly sent men who fired at his vehicle in Borivli on May 28.
In 2011, Chhota Rajan gangster DK Rao was arrested for making an extortion call to a steel businessman at VP Road from prison.
“Operating extortion rackets from jails is popular, mainly as it provides gangsters security from rivals, and secondly, they evade direct attention from police investigation,” said a crime branch official, requesting anonymity.