The recent attack on Abu Salem-aide Mehndi Hasan inside Arthur Road jail has the state government mulling over reviving its prison reform model.
Sources said the prison reform model, that was conceived and implemented in Nagpur jail by then deputy inspector general Dr BK Upadhyay, may be considered for implementation at Arthur Road jail after two gang wars broke out inside the prison in the past two months. Upadhyay, who is special inspector general (establishment), told Hindustan Times that prisons do not come under his authority anymore. “I will send them the proposal [to implement the model],” he said, adding that he could not comment on whether it should be implemented.
Prisoners in Nagpur jail had reaped many benefits from the reform model. “It was so successful that when Upadhyay was transferred, the prisoners went on a hunger strike to get him back,” an officer said.
The important points in the model included establishment of a laughter club, celebration of important festivals, yoga and meditation, organising cultural programmes, hasya kavi sammelan, mushaira, lectures on important personalities and personal interaction with prison staff.
The report prepared after the implementation showed that initially the prisoners did not show interest in the programmes, but after 2-3 months, it changed.
The prison authorities also started a feedback system where prisoners could put in suggestions and complaints, which worked wonders as corruption in the jail went down. Writ petitions against jail staff for misbehavior also came down. They also introduced personal counselling for prisoners. Kiran Bedi, best known for her reforms at Tihar jail, said reform measures were needed to control all kinds of prisoners. “Even hardened criminals can be changed through such measures as reforms help push out negative thoughts while introducing positive thoughts,” she said. Principal secretary (home) Medha Gadgil was unavailable for comment.