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How concept of open jail can work in India?

Friday - May 11, 2018 10:53 am , Category : WTN SPECIAL

May 11 (WTN)- The concept of open jails is floating in India and several other countries for quite long but there is no unanimity on its effectiveness and no large scale establishment of open jails have been seen anywhere.

The first open jail in India was set up in Jaipur in 1954 where the inmates were allowed to be with family members and work in the agriculture field under police monitoring.

At present there are just over 60 such jails spread across 17 states, which means we have been able to open hardly one open jail every year. While Rajasthan successfully runs 29 open jails, Maharashtra holds the pride of being home to 13 open jails making it the second on the list. But many bigger and populous states have much fewer numbers of open jails. Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have just one or two such jails in operation.

A Supreme Court bench in December  last year had asked the State to change its mindset and push jail reforms by exploring the provision of more numbers of open jails in the country. It is a pity that the 1,400-odd jails in India are exploding at the seams, while the 63 open jails, with a combined capacity of over 5,300 inmates have only 70 per cent occupancy at 3, 700.

Open jail is a very civilsed and smart system of prison management and has often proved to e better models in controlling crime. The purpose of jails is to reform and correct, not to exploit and torture. Unfortunately, due to the conventional wisdom borrowed from the British who saw Indian prisoners as slaves and animals and treated them accordingly, Indian police and jail administration are also in the habit of seeing prisoners in the same light.

This feudal approach is the main reason why the situation of prisoners in India is so inhuman and archaic and any reform is so reluctantly accepted. Another major factor that works in favour of the open jail system is the huge cost they save. It takes anything between 10-15 crore rupees annually to run a conventional prison, while the cost comes down to Rs20-25 lakh for an open prison. This means, the more open jails we have, more we can save public money and bring it to better use.

In various experiments it has been found that open jails help better orientation of the inmates with society since it is operated as a miniature model of the outside society, which promotes greater interaction, greater involvement in creative and vocational activities and a more humane approach to life.

Jails are not meant to snatch people’s right to life and liberty. It is not a death cell. Such a regimental lifestyle doesn’t really act as deterrents for criminals. They rather become more vengeful and animalistic.

Open jails offer the best platform to realise the values of liberty and reformation. There may be aberrations and stray incidents of escape, but those happen in conventional high walled jails as well. The government must sensitise and train the police and promulgate a progressive law to convert the closeted jails into open ones and establish new open jails where there are none.

-Window To News

 

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