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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Tihar upgrades tech to tackle mini phone menace

Jail authorities have also sought anti-bird nets to cover walls around the prison to prevent cell phones from being flung from outside the jail complex, and 16 more metal pole detectors at the entrance.

india Updated: Sep 13, 2019 05:42 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
New Delhi
Security personnel guards the Gate No. three of Tihar Jail in view of protest by AAP party suppoters in New Delhi.
Security personnel guards the Gate No. three of Tihar Jail in view of protest by AAP party suppoters in New Delhi. (Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times)
         

Tihar Jail officials are likely to use non-linear junction detectors (NLJDs) as part of measures to check smuggling of mini cell phones mostly measuring not more than 5 cm into the country’s largest prison complex, according to officials aware of the development. Hand-held NLJD devices are used to detect bugs and other forms of electronic devices.

Jail authorities have also sought anti-bird nets to cover walls around the prison to prevent cell phones from being flung from outside the jail complex, and 16 more metal pole detectors at the entrance.

Officials said a prisoner lodged in Tihar’s Mandoli campus was caught with a mini phone last week in the latest such incident. At least 19 seizures of this nature were made last month. Prisoners even swallowed mini phones in two cases and had to be operated upon at two city hospitals to remove them on August 12 and 24.

HT first reported on August 26 that incidents of mini cell phone smuggling into Tihar were on the rise.

Officials, who did not wish to be named, said the jail administration will test NLJD devices beginning next week. “An NLJD device can detect any electronic circuit even if it is switched off. As a pilot project, we will use it in one of the prisons in the Tihar complex. Depending on the results, we may buy more such detectors and use them across the entire prison complex,” said a jail officer privy to a meeting where the use of NLJD was discussed.

The prison complex is spread over 400 acres and houses over 15,000 prisoners, including Indian Mujahideen’s Yasin Bhatkal and gangsters Chhota Rajan and Neeraj Bawana.

A prison spokesperson confirmed that they would test such detectors but refused to divulge more details.

Officials said the jail administration has made it a priority to immediately find ways to stop this menace as prisoners have been successfully sneaking in mini cell phones into the prison.

Chinese companies make a majority of the mini phones, which are easily available on e-commerce sites and cost less than R900. Other commonly used phones such as Redmi Note 7 Pro, Apple iPhone XS, and OnePlus 7 measure about 15 cm.

Cell phones are prohibited inside the prison, where prisoners are allowed to use landline phones to talk to their families for five minutes. The calls are automatically disconnected after five minutes. Prisoners are allowed to call only after jail officers verify numbers they are making phone calls to.

Officials say prisoners have used cell phones to run their gangs from inside the prison. In May, the Delhi Police said they prevented a spate of murders by arresting two men allegedly tasked by jailed gangster Chanderbhan with eliminating his rivals. The police said that Chanderbhan used cell phones from inside the prison to run an extortion racket.

Officials said they have written to the Public Works Department (PWD) seeking anti-bird nets. “We tried using nets at one of the prisons, but the holes in them were big, and were not trapping the mini phones. Only the bigger ones were stuck. We have spoken to the PWD to get anti-birds nets that have minute holes. They will be tied around the prison walls,” another prison officer said on condition of anonymity.

The prison department is purchasing 16 more metal pole detectors as well to help officials check whether prisoners are carrying any form of metal. The prison currently has 20 metal pole detectors.

LN Rao, a former deputy police commissioner, said it is important that prisoners, especially gangsters and white collar criminals, do not get access to phones.

“The prison administration must find all ways to stop the use of such phones. I am not talking about prisoners who are lodged because of their circumstances. Gangsters not only conduct extortion rackets and killings by talking to their gang members outside but sometimes call the victims themselves to make the threats more real. Even white collar criminals use the phone to conduct their business. The purpose of putting such prisoners behind bars is defeated,” he said.

First Published: Sep 13, 2019 00:21 IST