State prison dept seeks revamp of 35 sub-jailsUpdated: Feb 02, 2020, 23:25 IST
In a bid to tackle overcrowding of under trails across different jails in Maharashtra, the state prison department is coming up with plans to set up 35 sub-jails in six districts of Maharashtra. The sub-jails will help accommodate mostly under-trials and ensure they reach court for every hearing, thus reducing pressure on escort teams that are mostly short-staffed or busy with other duties.
According to a September 2019 letter written by Sunil Ramanand, additional director general of police (prison) to Shrikant Singh, principal secretary, home department, around 160 sub-jails had been established across the state in 1952. The sub-jails had been started by the British but since then only 42 are functional while the remaining were shut down due to poor management or lack of proper upkeep. The letter, a copy of which is with HT, states that the functional sub-jails are being managed by the revenue department and the tehsildar’s office, and are run based on the prison department manual.
In October 2019, top officials of five major jails in Maharashtra had written to the state’s director-general of prisons and various courts, to urgently tackle overcrowding of under-trials and convicts. In the letter, officials from Arthur Road jail, Byculla jail, Thane central jail, Yerawada central jail (Pune) and Aadharwadi jail in Kalyan, stated that though the 60 prisons across the state had a capacity of 24,032 inmates, the current population was 50% higher, at 36,195.
“We have sent a proposal to open 35 sub-jails across Maharashtra as it is one of the solutions to reduce over-crowding across jails. Earlier, the sub-jails were maintained by the revenue department and were headed by a tehsildar. We will coordinate with the public work department and get the old sub-jails repaired for use. We are trying to restart 35 sub-jails and will see that they are run under the prison department. Also, the security will be handled by the prison department by posting senior jailers as superintendents with head constables and constables. Many of the sub-jails are close to the courts, thus ensuring that the inmates are produced in court on every hearing and reducing the burden of escort teams too,” the letter mentioned.
The prison department has already sent a proposal to the sub-divisional offices of eight districts asking them to hand over the sub-jails to them. The proposal lists seven sub-jails in Pune, seven in Nashik, three in Konkan, seven in Amravati, five in Nagpur, and six in Aurangabad. “The three sub-jails in Konkan are at Palghar, Murud, and Mangaon. At present, all the under-trials from Palghar district are sent to Thane central jail. In such cases, the escort team or local police have to travel almost three hours each way between the jail and court,” said a senior police officer from the prison department.
Priyanka Ayare, tehsildar from Mangaon in Raigad district, said the sub-jail in Mangaon taluka is maintained by the revenue department. “The sub-jail is at present working and inmates from Mangaon are brought to the sub-jail. The security for the sub-jail is managed by the Raigad police. Most inmates sentenced to judicial custody are kept in the jails. Once their judicial custody ends, they are sent to Alibaug or Taloja jails to serve their terms. We have not received any letter or proposal from the prison department yet,” he said.
Professor Vijay Raghvan at the centre for criminology and justice of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who is a member of a prison reform committee headed by retired justice KS Radhakrishnan, said, “The Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) had carried out a survey in 2014, which showed that the condition of the sub-jails is pathetic. The tehsildars who are given the job of managing the sub-jails are not at all bothered as taking care of sub-jails is not their primary job and they are busy with the development and other work of the taluka,” said Raghvan.
“In 2010 the CRHI had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court (HC) appealing to improve the condition of the sub-jails and further hand them over to the prison department,” said Raghavan, pointing out that no efforts were taken to maintain the jails and efforts to get sub-jails under the prison department has been going on for decades.
Devayani Tumma, a social worker from Solapur who is a member of a prison reform committee and has been visiting many sub-jails and also conducted visits to sub-jails with CRHI committee said, “The clerks from the tehsil office who are given the additional charge of sub-jails neglect them. They don’t even know how to maintain a register. The jail department just sent funds, but don’t bother to make them follow the jail rules,” said Tumma.