THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: DARK and gloomy structures, crammed cells and squalid conditions... These are some of the images that suddenly come to our mind at the mention of the word ‘prison’. In a bid to change that, the Kerala Prisons and Correctional Services Department is planning to open a jail in one of the most scenic locales in the state.
Former DGP Alexander Jacob, who heads the Jail Reforms Commission, has recommended to the authorities to establish an open prison at Kuttakuzhi Coffee Estate in Vazhathope Panchayat in Idukki. Owned by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation, the 300-acre estate and an old bungalow are nestled in a lush green forest at a 3,000-feet altitude. The plantation lacks proper upkeep while harvest is done by the residents of nearby tribal colonies, said Jacob.If the plan materialises, it would arguably be the most scenic prison in the country.
JACOB said it would be ideal to have a correctional home in a plantation. “Prisons are not places to merely detain culprits. They should correct the inmates. Life at a serene locale is sure to play a key role in an inmate’s transformation,” he said. The jail will also benefit the families of prisoners hailing from Idukki district. “About 120 natives of Idukki are now in the Open Jail at Nettukaltheri in Thiruvananthapuram. Visiting a detainee is an arduous and time-consuming task for their relatives now,” he said. Jails at Thrissur, Kannur and Cheemeni (in Kasargod) also house several persons from Idukki.
According to the proposal, prisoners will be assigned works at the estate, and it should be ensured the tribal people do not lose job or revenue. The Kerala Forest Development Corporation, however, does not seem to be excited. Chairman George Thomas said the plantation was maintained properly. “It’s a no-profit, no-loss venture to provide livelihood to tribals. We’re concerned about their future,” said Thomas. P T Thomas MLA, who previously represented the Idukki Lok Sabha constituency, welcomed the move. “It’ll help in forest conservation and prevention of encroachments.
If managed well, the plantation will generate revenue,” he said. Tomy George, the representative of Vazhathope panchayat’s Maniyarankudi ward, said the project would act as a catalyst for the development of the backward area. “The plantation is poorly maintained. Prisons department, in coordination with the tribal people, should chalk out plans to revive it,” he said.