In a bid to curb illegal activity in state prisons, the prison department recently formed a vigilance squad of eight policemen and prison staff, to conduct surprise checks in various prisons in the state. Officials of the prison department said the eight-member squad would have one senior official of the prison department and would be assisted by three junior officials and two prison staff. The squad will also have two drivers.
The squad has been tasked with conducting surprise searches all over the state in various prisons. The squad will also conduct enquires based on complaints from inmates against prison officials. The squad will report to additional director general (ADG) (Prison).
Sources in the prison department said there have been many incidents of illegal activity in jails across the state, which includes use of illegal phone and fights amongst inmates. There have also been allegations of high-handedness against prison staff, especially by inmates. Last year, there was also a jail-break incident at Nagpur and officials of the prison department were suspended by the state government.
According to sources, the worry for officials is the involvement of staff in some of the illegal activity. “We have put up equipment such as mobile jammers, mobile scanners, baggage scanners, metal detectors, apart from CCTVs at some places to try and stop the smuggling,” said a senior officer, on condition of anonymity. Sources, however, said despite all the equipment, there were areas that are not known to outsiders and hence a vigilance squad was formed, to keep a tab on activities. “Searching a prison is not an easy task and there were many places and ways to hide smuggled goods. The squad members will be specially trained in conducting searches,” a source said.
ADG (Prison) BK Upadhyay told HT the vigilance squad was formed a few weeks ago.
IN THE PAST
October 2014: Four mobile phones were seized from inside Arthur Road Jail during a surprise raid by jail officials. A case in this matter has been registered with the NM Joshi Marg police station and the Mumbai crime branch is conducting a parallel probe 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 smuggled inside Arthur Road Jail
June 2013: Gangster Abu Salem was shot at in Taloja jail. It was later found the shooter Devendra Jagtap alias JD had accepted the contract from Chhota Shakeel and the two spoke on mobile phone that was smuggled into the jail
May 2013: Gangsters Sachin Khambe and Sachin Shette, lodged in Nashik jail, had made extortion calls to a Vakola corporator and real-estate developer Brian Miranda
NAGPUR JAIL BREAK
On March 31, 2015, five inmates escaped from a high-security Nagpur central prison, including three MCOCA convicts. The two others were arrested and for robbery respectively. After the escape, more than 26 mobiles and several batteries were found in various barracks in the Nagpur jail. Four of the five accused were rearrested.
PRISONS IN MAHARASHTRA
Central Jails: 9
District jails: 31
Open prisons: 13
Sub jails: 172