Female prisoners in Maharashtra ushered in the new year on a fitting note of hope. With the inauguration of the first open jail for women prisoners in the state at the Yerwada Central Prison in Pune on January 26,they are all set to avail of better prison conditions available to their male counterparts for some time now.
Open prisons have a less stringent security system,allowing the prisoners to work outside the jail premises with minimal supervision during the day.
The jail would,apart from improving the quality of their lives,also give the female prisoners the benefit of remission in punishment. If a female prisoner gets selected for the open jail,her term will be legally reduced,an advantage which the male prisoners in Maharashtra already enjoy on account of the four open jails for them. Against every day of work at the open jail,the male prisoners were being given a remission in punishment for a day and were also being given remuneration for their work.
Female prisoners had been deprived of these benefits since the proposal for such a jail had been hanging fire for the last four years.
Recently,Ramesh Bagwe,the state minister for Home declared in the Legislative Council that the government would start its first open jail for women prisoners at Yerwada Central Prison and cited the positive results such an initiative had yielded for male prisoners. He said the open jail helped the male prisoners in changing their approach towards life and also in raising money by the way remuneration for their work. The female prisoners also have the right to get remission in punishment and remuneration for their work, he said.
IGP (Prisons) Uddhav Kamble appreciated the state government for approving the proposal. All the infrastructure for open jail for women prisoners is in place at the Yerwada Jail. We have 17 acres of agricultural land adjacent to the womens jail premises. The female prisoners eligible for open jail would be trained in farming and related skills, he said.
Besides reduction in prison term,the open jail would also help in improving the physical and mental condition of female prisoners. Another advantage is that in an open jail,the female prisoners serving life sentence would get parole for furlough up to one month. In a closed jail,the women prisoners get only seven days parole irrespective of the duration of their sentence, he said.
A committee headed by Kamble would be selecting the female prisoners for the jail. The selection procedure for female prisoners will be similar to that of male prisoners. Those women convicts who have completed a five-year prison term are eligible for the open jail. But the convicts in crimes like narcotics trade,gang wars are not eligible, said Kamble. The inmates will work between 8 am and 4 pm in the fields and return to the closed jail premises in the night.
Yerwada jail superintendent S V Khatavkar said they are waiting for the completion of official procedure required for inauguration of open jail. Proper security measures would be taken,but the open jail as a concept is a matter of trust. Only one jail guard is provided for ten prisoners in open jail, he said.We also have plans to carry out some construction work and raise new infrastructure for the womens open jail. It will be done in due course of time, he said.