CLAIMS THAT internal lapses by jail authorities in the escape of Lashkar commander Naveed Jat are “exaggerated”, according to former Director General (Prisons) S K Mishra. The seniormost IPS officer in J&K was removed from the post on Thursday, two days after the Pakistani prisoner’s escape and amid a major reshuffle of top police officials.
“Use of phones (by inmates) or the lapses on the part of the jail officials are not as common as is being suggested,” Mishra told The Indian Express. “It is exaggerated.”
Mishra stated that “despite serious staff crunch and lack of support for providing police personnel for security in the state’s prisons from the executive, the jails have been run professionally.” Meanwhile, sources told The Indian Express that all high-profile prisoners of the Srinagar Central Jail are likely to be transferred out as a fallout of the militant’s escape.
Two policemen were killed at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital on Tuesday as militants opened fire on policemen accompanying prisoners who were there for a check-up. Two militants and two overground workers were arrested in raids in Pulwama following the incident. However, Jat and an accomplice, Hilal, remain at large.
Mishra handed over charge of the state’s prisons to Dilbagh Singh, former Commandant General of the J&K Home Guard.
“Thorough checks of all prisons and prisoners are conducted every 15 days and every time a report was sent to my office, signed by the police, the CRPF and the jail staff,” Mishra said. “Nothing suspicious was found during these checks. However, hundreds of people visit the prisons and one can’t say if someone managed to slip a SIM card or a small phone.”
He said it is wrong that prisoners had access to cellphones. He said “several requests had been made to the Home Department and the state police headquarters to provide additional security personnel because the jail staff is inadequate at the moment”. “I wanted three-tier security: the CRPF on the outer layer, as it is now; then the police and then jail staff. This would also ensure that they search each other. But despite several requests for additional personnel, it was not provided,” he said. Asked why he did not get additional personnel, Mishra said, “Ask the DGP (S P Vaid).”
“The current jail security are assisted by machinery including X-ray baggage scanners, door frame metal detectors and hand-held metal detectors. We don’t have enough staff,” Mishra said. “There are approximately 400 prisoners at Srinagar Central Jail and about 120 members of jail staff. This includes clerical, administrative and medical staff. Effective jail staff is about 40 to 50.” He said “an advertisement inviting applications for filling vacant positions in various jails were issued in 2005 and those posts are yet to be fulfilled”.