Jail inmates in the state will now be able to interact with their family members through video chat. The facility — e-mulaqat — was launched by the State Correctional Administration department on Friday at Dum Dum Correctional Home here. “There are so many inmates who hail from far-flung areas. Then there are those who belong to other states and we have foreign prisoners also. It becomes very difficult for relatives of such prisoners to come to meet them. The facility will, therefore, be beneficial for those families. It will also give mental strength to the prisoners,” State Correctional Administration Minister Ujjwal Biswas told The Sunday Express.
“Inmates are brought from various parts of the state to our jails. In many cases, either their parents are too old to travel or they have health and monetary problems and so find it difficult to meet them. With this facility, they can now speak to them twice a week,” said an official of the department. Official sources said the state government and the jail administration had been toying with this idea for quite some time as they have received letters from family members of the prisoners, requesting them to introduce the video chat facility.
“A woman from abroad had sent us a letter that for the last ten years she couldn’t meet his son, who is lodged at a jail here. She is one of those people who helped us work on this project,” said Biswas. The minister said the facility will, however, take some time to become popular among the relatives of the prisoners. An official of the department said, “Many people don’t know how and where to go to use this facility. It is completely cost-free. All chats will be recorded in a register. Lawyers or legal aid committee members can also communicate with the prisoners through this facility.”
Sources said that the family members of the inmates have to first log in to the site — eprisons .nic.in — and complete some formalities. Then they will be given a fixed time when they will be allowed to make the video call. The inmates will be brought to the video conferencing room from where they can talk to their relatives under the supervision of jail authorities. Call duration is 10 minutes, they added.
Minister Biswas said the facility would also help maintain security in and around the prisons. “The family members of the prisoners will have the option of either coming to the prison and meet them or video chat with them. The facility will hence reduce the number of visitors at jails,” he added.
Echoing similar sentiments, a jail official said: “Prison authorities have to pay a lot of attention when relatives come to meet the inmates. There are jail staffers who spend several hours to ensure security at the meeting room. This facility will, therefore, help us in maintaining security at the prison.”
Official sources said that there are 59 correctional homes across the state where 25,652 inmates are lodged. All these inmates have been registered under the video call facility, they added.