Are audacious jailbreaks, setting militants and gangsters free, preventable? Yes they are, provided the prison management work is done diligently, 24x7 by all ranks, 365 days a year, from warder to chief warder.
Prison security is a case of sustained red alert and can brook no weakening. There is no moment even for a wink. Because prison is a place that houses inmates of all levels, most critical being the dangerous and unsafe to be allowed in the open society. Some are a known threat to society and therefore need to be kept within bounds, under a hawk’s eye. Prisons need to be guarded every second, by people who are trained, trusted and are equipped with weapons.
I have used three key words. Trusted, trained and equipped. Let me address the first. Trusted: For those entrusted with trust have to be worthy of trust. Are they? Can they be? If so, who? And how?
MORE VIGIL REQUIRED
Prison environment (unless heavily reformative and transformative, which is rare) breeds contamination, deceit, corruption, violence and mistrust. It’s all stealth and falsehood. It’s an institution of depraved who are only waiting to get away by hook or crook. They cannot do so without assistance from within. Which means breach of trust is the way from within the jail staff. Therefore, more vigil, not only on inmates but on the staff is critical by superiors.
“Who trains those deployed? All levels of leadership are duty bound to do so. Mock drills are a test of reflexes. It’s just one of the many strategies. Internal intelligence systems with intelligent use of technology and eavesdropping are others.”
Prison environment being highly negative rubs on people who serve there. Hence such an environment keeps the institution vulnerable to lives at risk. Like the killing of the head warder in Bhopal jail by intruders in the recent jailbreak there. So how does one ensure that the entrusted remain trust worthy? By placing vigil over the vigil. But by whom? By the chiefs.
USE OF TECHNOLOGY IMPERATIVE
The chiefs have to constantly be on the move. Use all possible means to remain abreast of goings in prisons with best use of technology. They need to deploy all kinds of drill scenarios, doing mock exercises and laying surprise traps. Any one falling in the cracks must be ruthlessly dismissed from service under Article 311(2) of the Indian Constitution, as a threat to security of state. Unless this unsparing rule is followed, we will, at reasonable intervals, continue to threaten safety and security of the state.
All levels of supervision must be held accountable. It is their responsibility to ensure vigil over the vigil. The strategy has to be theirs, accountability is theirs. There is no place for any political interference. If the leader allows it, he does it at his own peril, but at a huge cost to the safety of people as whole.
TRAIN JAIL STAFF
Trained: Who trains those deployed? All levels of leadership are duty bound to do so. Mock drills are a test of reflexes. It’s just one of the many strategies. Internal intelligence systems with intelligent use of technology and eavesdropping are others.
But training is essential. It’s like the infantry in readiness. This will enable warders to ward off negativity and passivity as well. Also instil respect for the responsibility being performed, which many are seen to be losing over a period of time. It must be kept intact.
Equipment: Who equips them? Again, it’s the leaders. The top man has to ensure the staff is provided with technology and physical equipment required to safeguard and protect prison. This reduces pressure on human limitations.
Without proper internal management prisons slip into further decay. Lodging is in the hands of jail superintendent, but it should be reviewed by top leadership.
“Never keep all gang members together in a jail. This is the basic mistake being repeated. While being conscious of depravity and threats of deceit, the prison must strive to incorporate all possible reform programmes to reduce collateral damages”
Never keep all gang members together in a jail. This is the basic mistake being repeated. While being conscious of depravity and threats of deceit, the prison must strive to incorporate all possible reform programmes to reduce collateral damages, including conspiracies from within.
Leadership then can embed sources for information in order to prevent and thwart any such audacious attempts of escapes or internal sabotage by enabling ears and feet closest to the ground. There are no shortcuts to high security. Constant vigil is the only prevention, with leadership which is rule bound, uncompromising and strongly professional.
India should lock up those who by connivance or neglect let state security be compromised. Prisons are both guards and guardians.
(The writer is lieutenant governor of Puducherry and served as IG, prisons, in Delhi. The views expressed are her personal.)