BENGALURU: You would assume jail is a place of hardship, but luxury is on offer for inmates who know their way around, according to those in the know.
Express spoke to prisoners out on parole, who confirmed a prison cell could turn into a cosy pad, complete with a TV and couch, for a monthly consideration.
Most convicts sleep in packed dormitories, and not everyone is entitled to a cell. But those who pay an ‘advance’ of `20,000 and a monthly ‘rent’ of Rs 10,000 are given separate cells. The money allegedly goes into the pockets of jail officials. Ganglords and their henchmen, incarcerated after big crimes, book these cells, which come with attached toilets.
“A dormitory houses up to 100, and privacy is hard to come by. Gangs rent these cells so they can stay together and hatch plans using their mobile phones,” a source said.
Some convicts do enjoy perks, admits a top jail official. But he offers a justification. “We keep them with their friends so that they do not commit suicide out of depression or loneliness,” Additional Inspector-General of Prisons V S Raja told Express. Some men stand outside the gates and ply stuff for the prisoners. “If you pay, you can get anything: food, drinks, groceries, cigarettes and even ganja,” he told Express.
Reddy’s Gym Fun
An official source said Janardhana Reddy, alleged kingpin in the illegal mining scam, enjoys gymming on equipment provided inside Parappana Agrahara jail. He also keeps two assistants with him, a source said.
“His food is prepared separately. The assistants make fresh fruit juice and serve him protein-rich food. He has managed to get a cooking gas cylinder as well,” the source said. Raja admitted Reddy had two assistants at hand, but said the privilege was allowed on the basis of a court order.
According to prison rules, only children below six can stay with their mothers in prison, and people who have committed no crime are not allowed to stay behind bars.
Contraband Haul: In August this year, during a surprise raid, the Parappana Agrahara police seized 10 kg of ganja from inside the prison. A police source said the tip-off came from the man who had sold the ganja to prison officials. The peddler was angry the officials had not paid him his dues, according to the source.
“When we asked jail staff about the sack of ganja, they said someone had dropped it off at the prison gates,” he said. But they had no answer why they had not filed a complaint, as required.
Officials claim they have no footage of who brought the ganja, although CCTV cameras monitor the entrance, a police source said.
Ganja is not the only thing that is smuggled in. A few months ago, a woman was caught carrying about 200 SIM cards, but prison staff did not lodge a police complaint, the source said.
Alok Kumar, Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), had issued strict orders, saying everybody and everything going inside the prison gates must be checked. “But without the cooperation of the Prisons Department, there is little we can do. It has been over three months since the ganja was seized. We are yet to get a report from them,” another police official said.
Hello Jailbird!: Mobiles are easy to get, too, thanks to obliging prison officials. “For `5,000, you get a phone,” the policeman said. “Apart from the money for the mobile, prison officials also pocket bribes to switch off the jammers from time to time.”
If prisoners delay the payment, which is about `5,000 a month, the phones are snatched back, he said.
Raja admitted prisoners use phones smuggled in. “We can’t monitor all activities because we have a staff shortage,” he said.
Three Gates: “Convicts and their families are scared, and wouldn’t dare do anything on their own. How can they cross three gates without being caught out?” he said.
DIG (Prisons) P M Jaisimha put the blame on the previous DIG Vishwanath. “Vishwanath was in charge when the incident took place. I don’t know much about it,” he told Express.
Gangster Rap: A policeman at the Parappana Agrahara station said he gets threat calls from inside the jail, even though the jammers should cover a radius of 2 km. “When we try to call jail officials, we can’t reach them. But undertrials call and ask me why I caught them. How are they able to call me in the first place?” he asked.