The authorities of West Midnapore jail are all set to launch a weekly magazine that will be written and edited by its inmates that they claim is the first of its kind in the country. They plan to bring out the first issue on April 14, the first day of the Bengali new year.
The authorities slapped advertisements on prison walls to “recruit journalists”, who would also be given an honorarium, the amount of which is yet to be decided.
Named ‘Khola Hawa’ (Free Air), the magazine will be a four page experiment in Bengali. “Only inmates will write and edit it,” said Debasish Chakraborty, the super of Midnapore Central Correctional Home that has about 1,400 inmates.
Bengal jails have undergone quite a few reformatory steps in the past two decades including introduction of creative pursuits such as theatre performances and painting. But this will be the first one involving the printed word.
The super and his colleagues have already set up a 16-member editorial board that will guide the project for the first few issues. All the members are inmates.
The central idea is to create a free platform for the inmates to express their opinions. “There are some highly qualified inmates here. They can participate in the project and guide it,” said a senior jail official.
The bosses of the correctional home department have already approved the project. The Midnapore jail is spread over 33 acres and can accommodate 2,100. Chakraborty, who is in his mid-forties, took charge of this jail a year ago.
The magazine will have news of events and activities in the jail such as sports events and farming activities. There will be a page on cultural events too. “We are even encouraging the inmates to draw cartoons,” said Chakraborty. He said that the inmates can also write about their grievances freely.
‘Khola Hawa’ now has a humble avatar, but will be ramped up if it goes well. The authorities have decided to bring out computer printouts initially, but if its popularity increases, they are ready to send it to the printers.
Right now it will be slapped on the walls at various spots inside the jail. “If it really takes off and inmates participate enthusiastically, we can think of circulating it to other correctional homes of the state and the department,” added Chakraborty.
“We are trying to take care that the authorities don’t write in the magazine and that we don’t censor the material,” said the super.
The super told HT that he got the idea from a similar project in a British jail.