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Prison tourism: Maharashtra government may let you rent jail cells, experience life behind bars

Maharashtra has 54 jails, of which nine are central prisons

mumbai Updated: Jan 25, 2018 23:31 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
Prison tourism,Maharashtra government,life behind bars
After breakfast, tourists will have to toil in the farm, garden or in the kitchen for the next three hours.(PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATION ONLY)

Ever wondered what the life of a convict is like? Here’s a chance to satiate your curiosity.

Next week, the state prison administration will send the government a proposal to allow tourists to rent a real prison cell, where they can live for a stipulated period. If the proposal is approved, Maharashtra will be the second state in the country, after Telangana, to initiate a “Prison Tourism” programme.

“This is a wonderful plan to boost tourism, especially among adventure seekers,” said Bipin Bihari, director general, prisons. “The hardship of staying in a prison cell will also deter people from breaking the law in future,” he added.

Maharashtra has 54 jails, of which nine are central prisons.The rest are district and open prisons. These jails collectively house 25,000 inmates.

Additional director general of police, prisons, Bhusan Upadhaya, said the Sindhudurg district jail has been selected for the pilot project. The Sindhudurg jail, like two more in its neighbouring districts — Ratnagiri and Raigad — has the least number of inmates compared to other jails in the state. The jail, which can accommodate 500 inmates, currently has 25. It is clean, hygienic and is equipped with all basic amenities and a fully operational kitchen.

If the proposal is approved, the current batch of inmates will be relocated to the Oros district jail. “We are hopeful of getting the go-ahead from the government,” Upadhaya added.

Bookings will be open throughout the year. Tourists will be alloted a spot in the jail barracks on a first come, first serve basis. The jail authorities are yet to fix the daily rate for the visitors, though sources said it will be a little more than what the state spends on prisoners. “The revenue collected will be utilised for the welfare of jails in the state,” sources said.

To avoid controversies or mishaps, the jail administration has laid down certain conditions that tourists must fulfil before they are selected for the stay. “Tourists must produce a fitness certificate and should not have a history of medical problems. People having a criminal past will not be selected,” a senior jail official said. Visitors will also have to sign an undertaking, saying they will abide by the rules of the jail.

Tourists can select the duration of their stay — from 24 hours to a full week.

At the entrance, tourists will have to change into the uniform of a convict — a white striped kurta, half pants and a Gandhi topi — and deposit their clothes and belongings in a drawer. They will be given basic bedding, a mug and a bar of soap.

To give tourists an authentic feel of what the life of a prisoner is like, they will have to sleep on the floor of the dormitory similar to how prisoners live.

Their schedule will be the same as that followed by inmates in the state’s jails. They will have to get up at 6 am, finish bathing within the next 30 minutes, then join the hour-long physical training parade and yoga session. Breakfast — either poha, upma or omelette and bread — will be served in the barracks by 8.30 pm.

The tourists will have to toil in the farm, garden or in the kitchen for the next three hours. At 12.30 pm, they will get the standard jail meal of rice, dal, chappati and bhaji. Following this, they can rest for an hour.

A number of recreational activities — debates, interaction with prisoners from other barracks, poetry recitation, singing and dancing — are scheduled before the evening snack of tea and biscuits is served at 3.30 pm or 4 pm.

They will have to return to work in the field for the next two hours, before being directed back to their barracks by 6 pm. “Dinner, which comprises the same food served at lunch, is served at 7 pm. Lights will be off by 8.30 pm,” said an officer privy to the drafting of the proposal.

Like actual prisoners, visitors will also be allowed to buy biscuits, potato chips and other food items from the jail canteen.

First Published: Jan 25, 2018 23:31 IST