Tihar’s ‘open jails’ don’t feel like prison, they help convicts reform

At least 98 convicts with ‘good conduct,’ who have served 12 years in prison, are lodged in the semi-open and the open-jail complex.

delhi Updated: Apr 22, 2018 07:49 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Tihar jail,Open jail,Open prison
Security personnel guards gate number three of Tihar Jail in New Delhi. (HT File Photo)

Away from the grilles, the high walls, X-ray scanners, armed guards and the overcrowded prison cells, a four-storey building inside Tihar jail’s 400-acre complex stands apart.

There are no iron gates or armed guards monitoring and frisking visitors here.

Located behind the office of the prison’s director general, the building complex comprises the open and the semi-open jails. Delhi is one of the 17 states that has come up with such a facility.

At least 98 convicts with ‘good conduct,’ who have served 12 years in prison, are lodged in the semi-open and the open-jail complex. Unlike the other 15,000 prisoners, who share cells or fit themselves into barracks, every prisoner in open jail complex gets a room.

It is their space earned through ‘good work’.

Explaining the difference between the semi-open and open jails, an officer said that open jail inmates, such as of Jessica Lal murder convict Siddharth Vashishta, better known by his alias Manu Sharma, get to leave the prison complex every day and return in the evening. They, however, cannot leave the city or spend time at any place apart from their workplace mentioned in the open jail transfer order, the officer said.

Those lodged in the semi-open jail, on the other hand, cannot step outside the prison and are assigned work within the prison complex, such as desk jobs in jail offices. The only similarity is that these prisoners live in the same building.

“Open jail inmates are at a level higher than the semi-open ones. They can be released within months too, depending on the order of the sentence review board. Being shifted to open jails means they are no longer a threat to the society,” said a jail officer.

In February this year, jail officials had conducted an inspection at the building. All but one inmate were found to be clean. The nabbed inmate, who was in a semi-open jail prisoner and had been convicted of murder, was caught with prohibited items.

“We found him drunk with a liquor bottle lying next to him. He also had some narcotics stashed under his mattress. He was sent back to the normal prison and an inquiry ordered. Other inmates such as Manu Sharma, convicts of 1997 Connaught Place encounter and former Congress youth president Sushil Sharma, who was convicted for his wife Naina Sahni’s murder, were found to be clean,” said a jail officer. Jail officials said they were working on a draft proposal to start a women’s semi-open jail soon.

Smita Chakraburtty, independent researcher and honorary commissioner for Rajasthan prisons, who works on prison reforms said, semi-open and open jails are a must in a civilized society. “There is no scope for human cages. Jails are reformation centres. When there are facilities of open and semi-open jails, prisoners consciously reform themselves.”

First Published: Apr 22, 2018 07:49 IST