House that! Jail inmates built them, but can’t own them
Convicts, who have served one-third of their sentence including remission and shown good conduct, are eligible for shift to these camps under provisions of the Rajasthan Prisoners Open Air Camp Rules, 1972.jaipur Updated: Jul 31, 2017 20:50 IST
Shrikrishna Lodha (50) spent Rs 20,000 to build a single-room tin-roof house in the Kota open-air prison camp three years ago. He became eligible for shift to the camp from Kota Central Jail after he completed one-third of his sentence for a murder in 2014.
When he moved to the wall-less prison, he shared a house with another convict; after he began going out to earn, he collected money from pulling a cycle rickshaw to build his own house.
Similarly, Latoor Lal (55), serving life imprisonment since 2007, built a house in the open camp with Rs 25,000 in 2015. He will walk out of the jail in 2022 – and until then this cottage in the camp is his house.
Open-air jail camps are a novel step to ensure prisoners’ social readjustment. Convicts, who have served one-third of their sentence including remission and shown good conduct, are eligible for shift to these camps under provisions of the Rajasthan Prisoners Open Air Camp Rules, 1972.
Rajasthan has 29 such camps, where convicts live with their families and are allowed to go out during the day to pursue jobs. The prisoners have to attend a roll call in the morning and evening.
Director-general of prisons Ajit Singh said convicts in central and district jails were shifted to open camps to make them learn self-dependence by lawful means of livelihood and social interaction.
In 2014, the state prisons department allowed convicts in open-air camps to construct cottages for them on their own expenses to make up for lack of government cottages. In 2015, the Rajasthan high court stopped this practice because it was creating a class divide among the prisoners, said Singh.
People who had money built better houses than others who could only afford for shanties. Some others, who didn’t have money even for that, shared houses with more than one prisoner.
Between 2014 and until the HC order in 2015, many cottages had been built in camps across Rajasthan.
There were 15 cottages in the Kota camp when it was set up in 2005. Between 2014 and 2015, 45 new cottages came up, said Prithvi Singh Hada, who is in charge of the Kota camp.
Convicts who were shifted to open camps after 2015 moved into cottages vacated by the prisoners released. Prakash Kumar (38) is one such beneficiary. After he was shifted to the camp in 2016, he moved into a cottage constructed by another prisoner who shifted to a better house on the campus.
Of the 45 prisoners who built the cottages, 23 have been released. The remaining 22 will also complete their sentences soon. But, Hada said, 10-15 prisoners are shifted to open-air camps every year, so most cottages remain occupied.
For some prisoners, it meant wasteful expenditure because the houses they built were not theirs forever but for some, it was a facility worth spending for. Farzana Ahmad (33) thinks Rs 8,000 they spent on the shanty was nothing for the joy of living with her husband, Arif alias Sonu, in jail.
Most of the houses are 10-foot-by-10-foot with a ceiling of 9 feet.