REACTING SHARPLY to the Nabha jailbreak, former Director General of Prisons, Punjab, Shashikant, said prisons in Punjab were virtual ‘club houses’ for the criminals because of the patronage of politicians enjoyed by them.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Shashikant, who retired as DGP, Prisons, in June 2012, said unless the issue of political patronage to gangsters was addressed, such incidents would continue. “These prisons, including the high-security Nabha jail, where the most dreaded criminals are lodged, including several convicted terrorists, are nothing but a place for fun and frolic for the politically connected gangsters. I have no doubt that these are just club houses for the prisoners who get every illegal facility that can be offered to them,” he said.
Shahshikant said he had tried to improve the situation in Punjab’s jails but failed.
“There was massive political interference on the steps initiated by me to ensure security of prisons. Bureaucracy also had a lukewarm response due to ulterior motives. I had opposed the random parole being granted by the political authorities but my objections had no effect. I had also transferred some prisoners who were known to have political patronage to high-security prisons, but I was told to cancel their transfer orders. In addition, I had demanded three-tier perimeter security for jails, which was to be augmented by mobile patrolling by personnel who would be changed at regular intervals. This proposal, too, did not see the light of day becuse of the lack of interest shown by the state government. I had also brought these measures to the notice of a three-member committee of sitting high court judges in 2012,” he said.
Again, when he was DGP, Prisons, Shashikant had made two recommendations to the government as well as a three-member committee of the high court in order to improve jail management and ensure security. “I had explicitly said that it was not advisable to lodge prisoners accused of petty crimes along with dreaded gangsters. More often than not, these petty criminals deliberately get jailed in order to meet these very gangsters who are their handlers from inside jails and then they hatch plots to commit crimes when they get bail,” he said.
The former DGP said the Nabha jailbreak plot could have been hatched in a similar manner where a prisoner, who had been inside briefly, was given responsibility of carrying out the jailbreak after observing the prison staff and holding confabulations with gangsters. “It does not make sense to lodge those accused of crimes under Section 107/51 of the CrPC in a maximum security prison with dreaded criminals. Obviously these accused are getting access to the jail for a reason and they must be kept out and not allowed to enter such jails,” he said.
“Secondly, I had also demanded a complete crackdown on the use of mobile phones from within jails, particularly smartphones, because these were being used by the prisoners to remain in touch with the gangsters on the loose outside the prisons and to coordinate crime activities with them,” Shashikant said. The demand for installing mobile signal jammers in prisons has been long pending and not fully implemented either, adding that he did not know what became of his recommendations after he retired.
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