To check illegal activities inside jails, the police department is planning to set up special squads to keep an eye on Maharashtra’s prisons.
Over the past few years, inmates have been found using mobile phones and operating gangs from inside jails.
In the recent Nagpur jailbreak, five men booked for serious offences escaped from the high-security prison. More than 40 mobile phones were later seized from the jail and the role of prison staff is also under question.
The proposed special squads will report directly to senior officers and will keep away from the jail staff. A proposal for setting them up has been sent by the prison department to the state’s home department.
According to sources, the need for a special squad was felt as the prisons department is worried about the involvement of jail staff in smuggling mobile phones inside.
“We have put up equipment such as mobile phone jammers, scanners, metal detectors, and CCTVs across the state’s jails to try and stop the smuggling of illegal articles inside,” said a senior officer requesting anonymity.
However, sources said, mechanical equipment alone is not sufficient to keep tabs on such activities and surprise manual checks are vital. “Searching prison premises is not an easy task as there are many places and ways to hide smuggled goods. Members of the proposed squad will be trained in not just facilities in jails, but also in some police training institutes,” the officer said.
Meeran Borwankar, additional director general, (prison), confirmed they had sent a proposal to the government for setting up the squads, under officers of the rank of inspector general or deputy inspector general (IG/DIG) of police.
Jammers near two high-security prisons
The Prison department, Maharashtra, has moved a proposal for setting up mobile phone jammers at two central jails – in Nagpur and Kalyan. Both the jails are spread over a large area, and there have been incidents of mobile phones being used inside them
Sources said there are small phone jammers inside individual barracks in the jails, but they are not sufficient
Sources said the proposal comes in the wake of recent seizures of more than 40 mobile phones from the Nagpur Central Jail, from where five inmates escaped on March 31. Three of them were booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act, (MCOCA), one under the Arms Act and one for robbery
The Kalyan jail, sources said, is sensitive as it often houses members of the various underworld gangs of Mumbai.
Shootouts, rackets running inside jails
October 2014: Four mobile phones were seized from inside the city’s Arthur Road jail during a surprise raid by jail officials. It is not clear who was suing the phones. The NM Joshi Marg police and crime branch are conducting parallel probes in the matter
April 2014: Uday Pathak, the main accused in the 2011-Kurar quadruple murders, was found running a gang using a mobile phone he had smuggled inside the Arthur Road jail. Pathak was allegedly trying to extort money from prominent Mumbaiites along with four associates
June 2013: Gangster Abu Salem was shot at in Taloja jail by another inmate Devendra Jagtap. Jagtap had allegedly accepted the contract to shoot Salem from gangster Chhota Shakeel and the two spoke on mobile phones smuggled inside the jail
May 2013: Gangsters Sachin Khambe and Sachin Shette, lodged in Nashik jail, allegedly made extortion calls to Vakola corporator and real-estate developer Brian Miranda
2012: Quateel Siddique, an alleged operative of the Indian Mujahideen, who was arrested for the plot to blow Dagdushet Halwai temple in Pune in 2010, was strangulated with a string by a local criminal inside the Yerawada central prison in Pune.