Battling stereotypes, reforming criminals: Women jail officials show the way
Like many staffers, Krishna also said women officials have more patience and will power to handle things positively.
NEW DELHI: Meet these women jail officials who are not only fighting a tough battle on the professional front by dealing with hardened criminals, but also facing societal stereotypes which consider only certain professions as ''respectable'' for the fairer sex.
Ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, PTI visited Tihar Central Jail No 6 and spoke to the women staff on what it means to be working and engaging with the prisoners.
According to the staff, they have had to face a lot of obstacles from finding a decent match to delayed marriage, odd working hours, hostility by inmates, among others, as part of the job.
They, however, assert that they work with the commitment to counsel inmates and engage them in activities, thus empowering them for a better future.
Krishna Sharma (49), who had served in the Social Welfare Department of the Delhi government, always aspired to be in administrative services.
In November 2021, when she got her transfer order and was asked to join as superintendent of women Central Jail No 6 in Tihar, she said her colleagues tried to discourage her by saying that jail was not a place to work and that it will attract negativity.
Her husband's encouraging words, however, helped her to take up the assignment.
"Since the first day of my work here, the first thing I do is to take a round of the jail, discuss the issues of inmates, talk to them in person and find solutions to their genuine problems. I discuss their problems with my staff and accordingly take quick decisions," Krishna said.
The official added that it had been over four months since she joined and there has been no complaint so far since all the issues are attended timely, which helps in preventing the inmates from knocking at court's door.
Like many staffers PTI spoke to, Krishna said women officials have more patience and will power to handle things positively.
Recalling her childhood days, Raman Sharma, Deputy Superintendent, Tihar Central Jail No 6, said whenever she and her mother passed by the jail, her mother asked her to look away.
When she used to question her mother on this, she never got a satisfactory reply.
Years later, Raman landed up at a ward of Tihar Central Jail as its assistant superintendent in 1996.
She is credited with bringing many reforms in the jail.
She said when she joined, the jail had a small ward for women inmates, adding that she urged the officials to set up a separate Central Jail for Women and that is how Jail No 6 was set up exclusively for women inmates.
She also remembered how she pasted "No Smoking" posters outside the offices of senior officers, which was hailed a "bold" step at that time.
The senior official said she has also served in men's prisons which she said is a "different ball game altogether".
"In men's prisons, inmates fight over petty issues and create ruckus. During these internal fights, they also abuse and create their own groups.
So, our focus is on ending the fight, counsel the inmates and separate them from the opposite party.
"Even when a fight is over, the male inmates tend to act with revenge later. So it is important that we keep both the sides away and engage them in activities or spiritual classes," she said.
Recalling about one such incident, Raman said one of the convicts of Nirbhaya case would deliberately engage in petty fights with other inmates so that his trial got extended.
She added that there have been instances when male inmates climb on trees and refuse to come down, or when they inflict injuries on themselves and blame the prison staff.
Talking about dealing with male inmates, Kiran, Deputy Superintendent, Central Jail No 6 at Tihar, said, "Women officials win the trust of male prisoners as they address their problems and try to solve them with all genuineness.
"We need to be honest, build a positive image, handle things smoothly with transparency and ensure that no discrimination takes place...it then becomes easy to maintain peace and build a secure environment inside the prison premises," she said.
Director General (Delhi Prisons) Sandeep Goel also underlined the sincerity of women officials in dealing with the prisoners, irrespective of their gender.
"We have two women jails -- Central Jail No 6 in Tihar and Central Jail No 16 in Mandoli. Both the jails have all-women staff, including jail superintendents," he said.
Some women staffers are also posted in men's jails, especially for frisking female visitors and family members who come to meet their kin lodged in the prisons.
Senior women officials are sometimes also posted in regular duties in men's jails.
They have been working very efficiently in men's jails as well, he said.
"Actually, it is not about gender, it is about skills, and your determination and passion to work when it comes to dealing with the inmates, be it women or men," Goel added.
Anita Dayal, Superintendent of Mandoli Jail No 16, said maintaining work-life balance for women is always difficult and all the more challenging when you are in police or doing prison duty.
While the young generation prefers to have white-collar jobs, here is 25-year-old Jyoti, who is in-charge of library unit of Central Jail No 6 in Tihar.
"The image of jails portrayed in movies is completely different from what it is in real. It is like a reform centre where you have mentors and guides to bring you back to a normal life and deal with tough situations," Jyoti added.