May 14, 2021 6:11:12 am
Jails in Punjab are all set to become reform houses with the Punjab Cabinet giving its nod to Punjab Prison Rules, 2021, under the Prison Act, 1894. At the same time, it was decided that Punjab jails will have ‘prison within prison’ for hardened criminals.
The government said that the newly drafted rules lay emphasis not only on safe and secure custody of prisoners, but also on welfare, corrections and aftercare.
However, in order to ensure effective surveillance, safe custody and prevention of escapes, new security parameters have been introduced in the new rules. For lodging of high risk prisoners such as gangsters, drug offenders, terrorists, and radicals, “prisons within prisons” (high security enclosures/zones) have been created. The infrastructural requirements of these enclosures have been defined. A multi-tier security grid will also been placed for better monitoring on the high-security zones.
Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “We are bringing so many changes that it is going to turn the jails into reform houses. At the same time, we are going to become stricter while handling gangsters and terrorists.”
Adequate provisions for creation of a welfare fund, meal for employees during their shift, legal assistance, housing, medicare, financial assistance, welfare of retired officers, etc. have been made to keep prison officers motivated. Promotional courses on the line of Punjab Police have also been incorporated for fair and faster promotions.
For reducing recidivism, ensuring successful rehabilitation and social reintegration of released convict prisoners, a framework for aftercare assistance has been incorporated in the new prison rules. This will cover many aspects, such as assistance in employment/entrepreneurship, medical treatment, marriage and even renting a house.
Further, various other provisions incorporating use of technology for a more efficient and effective prison administration have been added to the new rules.
The modern technology shall also assist in maintaining secure custody of inmates. On the hardware side, provisions for use of modern security equipment and surveillance gadgets has been made, including Artificial Intelligence enabled CCTVs, motion sensors, mobile jammers, siren/alarm system, body scanners, X-ray baggage scanners, touch screen kiosks for inmate details, etc.
On the software side, provisions for deployment of Prison Management Information System, trial through video conferencing, e-wallet, e-office, e-procurement, Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), have been made.
Education of illiterate prisoners has been made compulsory. The scope of the educational programme has been widened to include not only academic education but also moral, spiritual, cultural, and computer education.
In order to impart discipline, ensure productive engagement of prisoners, gainful production in prison industries under Punjab Prison Development Board, and support for the after-care/rehabilitation programme of the department, a separate chapter has been dedicated to vocational training and skill development in inmates.
Provisions for better mental health care facilities such as counselling facilities, psychotherapy, etc. have also been made. A separate chapter has been dedicated to the treatment and confinement of a mentally-ill prisoner under the purview of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
A new provision for a grievance redressal system in every prison, which will provide every inmate the legitimate opportunity to voice his/her grievances, has been incorporated in the new rules. Under this system, compliant boxes shall be installed at different locations in the prison and a permanent committee will be constituted for this purpose under the officer in charge of prison, and it shall meet at least twice a week to dispose of the complaints.
A provision for electronic communication such as video conferencing has been made so that the inmates can hold face to face interviews with family/friends or legal counsel. At present, the inmates communicate with their family/friends either by using Prison Inmate Calling System (PICS) or by meeting them face-to-face in the prison during mulakat on designated days.
The new rules provide for increased participation of prisoners in those aspects of prison administration/management that directly affect the provision of services to the prisoners. For example, a mess committee comprising of prisoners has been constituted which shall be responsible for hygiene, quality and quantity of the cooked food as well as its fair distribution. Similarly, provision for prisoners’ panchayat and mahapanchayat has been made which shall be responsible for planning and execution of daily recreational program.
Free food for poor Covid patients
Beginning Friday, the poor and underprivileged Covid patients living in Punjab can call up Hunger Helpline numbers 181 and 112 for delivery of free cooked meals at their doorstep through the Punjab Police department.
The initiative was announced by CM Amarinder Singh while chairing the Cabinet. A government statement quoted him declaring that “We will not anyone sleep hungry in Punjab.”
The statement added that such patients can call on these numbers any time. The police department is tying up with such kitchens and delivery agents for this purpose, DGP Dinkar Gupta said.
Punjab to procure hospital material
The Cabinet also gave post-facto approval for the procurement of hospital material and consumables worth Rs 152.56 crore by the departments of Health & Family Welfare, Medical Education & Research and Police, for effective management of Covid.
It also approved recruitment of 250 MBBS medical officers in the Health Department, against existing vacant regular posts through Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, after taking the recruitment process out of the purview of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC).
Of these, 192 medical officers were given their appointment letters Thursday. These posts of 250 Medical Officers (MBBS) in the health department has fallen vacant from October 1 last year to April 4.
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