CHENNAI: From coin-box phones to signal jammers, various measures have been taken. But police officers are still concerned that cellphones continue to find their way into the prison and help a few hardcore criminals to continue their operations.
While the occasional seizures of cellphones from the prison inmates point out that cellphones continue to be smuggled into the prison, the police officers are worried about their possible abuse.
A senior police officer in the Chennai city says investigations in a few cases pointed out that the crime plot was hatched inside the prison. Pointing to the attempt to murder DMK functionary ‘Gate’ Jaga alias Jagannathan in West Saidapet on January 11, the officer said the suspected perpetrator of the crime CD Mani was already inside the prison when the plot was carried out. “CD Mani was arrested in 2015 itself. But still he was able to execute his plan to eliminate Jaganathan by being in touch with one of his associates through cellphones,” said the police officer.
While Jaganathan was injured by two bullets fired at him in broad daylight allegedly by associates of CD Mani, he survived the attempt and is recovering.
Similarly, Nagendran, a life convict from 1997, is currently lodged in Vellore jail and had served imprisonment in Puzhal before this. “He was also well-known for hatching plans from prison. His last plan was in 2014, where he eliminated another rowdy element Tenarasu in Tiruvallur,” said a police source.
However, prison officials deny the claims that cellphones are so freely accessed by the prisoners. While admitting that there are cases of cellphones smuggled into the prison, thorough frisking and checks of the premises were conducted to prevent the use of cellphones. “Inspections are conducted twice a day at 5.30 am and 6 pm. The inmates are allowed to make phone calls thrice a week to the family members under the supervision of the jail warden,” said a prison warden in the Puzhal Central Prison. As many as 48 cellphones were seized from the prison last year.
However, a few other prison officials acknowledge the problem and the challenges in containing it. The main challenge comes from the prisoners who serve in the prison and get released subsequently. “Since they know the prison’s topography and the surrounding areas, they know from which spot they can hurl the cellphones inside the prison. Once they get released, they look to help other inmates by hurling mobile phones over the compound walls of the prison. As they know the layout of the structure, they have been quite successful in passing on the equipment to the inmates,” said a prison official.
He points to one of walls, which is nearly 26 feet high, but located close to a bus stop. “So, usually accomplices or contacts of criminals usually look to hurl the mobiles at night. When the prisoners are let out from their cells and dormitary in the morning at 5.30, they know exactly where to look for their mobile,” he said.