BENGALURU: Every day, Shankar Reddy wakes up inside his small jail cell and looks ahead to another day as a university student.
He is serving a jail term for the last six years for killing a relative by stabbing him.
But thanks to the initiatives of the Prisons Department, which focus on correction rather than punishment, Reddy, like 78 other inmates in Karnataka’s jails, is burning the midnight oil.
These jail inmates are pursuing courses like journalism, post-graduation in criminal justice, cooperative law and business, Master of Arts in English, etc.
"Karnataka State Prisons Department has been declared as the number one in the entire country and we aim to correct, reform and rehabilitate prisoners to enable them to become good human beings and socially responsible citizens in society. Improving education will reduce chances of repeat offences and those who seek to improve their education will be seen as role models for other inmates," said DGP (Prisons) NS Megharikh told TNIE.
Of the 78 convicts who are taking up the exams, more than 20 are women. Many of them are pursuing certificate courses in food and nutrition.
The higher education courses they have taken up are mostly part-time or distance learning programmes from open universities.
The names of the convicts have been withheld on request.
‘Studying while in jail gives hope’
Most of the convicts who are pursuing higher education are serving jail terms in murder cases, some extremely gory murders. But they have the mind and heart to reform.
Take for example, a man who is serving sentence for killing his wife has taken up a post-graduate diploma course in criminal justice,” explained Megharikh.
TNIE also spoke to a few murder accused who completed their graduation courses while serving jail time, and are now released or acquitted by higher courts.
Studying for a degree while inside "gives a sense of purpose and hope as well as offers a realistic pathway towards living a different life upon release," said Siddanna (name changed) who was only 18 years when he was jailed in 2006.
“I was imprisoned after I was accused of killing my uncle in a group clash near our fields. I am now 40 years old. I have done BCom, MCom, MA in Journalism and MBA in Marketing while inside the prison. I am now working with KS International, a company which has presence all across state. I am thankful to S T Ramesh, the then DG, who motivated me to take up the courses after I expressed my interest in studying,” said Rudresh.
Velu, convicted in a murder case, did his MBA in 2014-15 from University of Mysore, then did a doctorate in BASM Alternative Systems of Medicine (Indian board alternative medicine, Kolkota).
After his release in 2017, he pursued MD in Alternative Medicine and is now practising at his village in Tamil Nadu.
"I am forever a learner. Learning at every step is important. I was acquitted by the High Court but I spent a good eight years in prison. I wrote a letter to a guide from the university there and sought help. Several friends inside and outside helped me complete my course," said Velu.
The department provides them access to a full-fledged library, guest lectures by university teachers on request, printouts of study material and also a little help from prisoners themselves. The fee is also provided by the department itself.
There is also an educational centre with blackboard, desks, etc., for prisoners.
"Satish Gupta, a software engineer who was convicted, was a hero to all MBA aspirants. He helped many of us clear our entrance examinations as he would chalk out our daily study timetable and also explain how to answer the question papers. There are many like him," explained Rajkumar, another convict in a dowry death case.