The break of dawn brings a smile to Manjeet's face these days, for, he looks forward to the time when he will move out of the prison to begin his work.
Manjit is among 50 prisoners from different corners of Himachal Pradesh who are part of the open jail concept. During the night, they are lodge in prison, but at day break, they work outside.
Their day starts with buying vegetables, cereals and pulses etc. from the local market. They then cook various dishes which are sold to the attendants of patients of the Summer Hill and IGMC Hospitals and also to passersby.
The catering service works out of mobile vans near these hospitals.
The open air jail concept under the jail reform scheme is changing the lives of many prisoners who are now earning a decent amount.
"We are being given a second life, a second chance to live. I am happy that I am being able to earn a few rupees and send money to my family back home. This has enabled my children to study," said Manjeet.
Devraj, another inmate, says, "I am really enjoying my work. I get to meet people. I am earning some money and would like other prisoners like me to get the same kind of opportunity".
According to Prem Singh Verma, superintendent, central jail, the open jail concept is being applied at six jails across the state.
Verma said, "We have only ten prisoners with us. We have taken up a barrack of the three barracks under us."
"We have another barrack in Bilaspur and that is doing very well. This is a very good concept and the government had taken a very good decision last year."
"This way they are earning wages. Their product is being taken outside and is sold. Whatever they are earning is for themselves and their families. They can also use the money once they are released," he added.
Maintaining proper hygiene and cleanliness is a motto they follow. Being self- sufficient and gradually being accepted by the society is giving these prisoners a new lease of life.
Open jails are minimum security prisons. Prisoners with good behaviour satisfying certain norms prescribed in the prison rules are admitted in open prisons.
Fourteen states have functioning open jails in their jurisdiction. Rajasthan has the highest number of open jails -- 23.