In a punishment transfer of sorts, seven prison officials of Central Jail, Parappana Agrahara, in Bengaluru, were recently shunted out to district prisons. They were charged with presiding over irregularities. Drugs, alcohol and other ‘luxuries’ were in free supply, as evidenced in a video that made it to social media a few months ago. A quid pro quo arrangement, no doubt. The lid was blown off this mutually beneficial situation by a mystery videographer and also a letter by an inmate detailing the illegal activities. An investigation led to a 500-page report by a senior police official and finally, some action.
It is known that criminals have run extortion rackets and gangsters have orchestrated underground activities from their prison cells. Drugs and arms are smuggled in through a porous entry system. VVIP prisoners like Sasikala and Ilavarasi managed to procure luxuries like a five-cell ‘suite’, cot, mattress, television, round-the-clock security, a private kitchen and cook, and even went shopping in the heart of Bengaluru. The then DIG Prisons, IGP D Roopa, exposed this. Her report suggested that the prisoner paid Rs 2 crore for the facilities. It led to a furore. Money talks loud and clear, and prison officials are particularly susceptible. It is also a pointer to something rotten in our prison system where politicians have contacts and control, and the line between police officials and criminals can easily blur.
The prison department declares that its main objective is “to deter those who would otherwise commit crimes” and lays emphasis on “correcting, reforming and rehabilitating prisoners and making them socially responsible citizens in society after their release”. The goings-on in our prisons suggest it is vice-versa, with criminals having a greater influence over the officials. Besides, the lenient ‘punishment’ meted out to officers who play fast and loose with prison rules will not help deter similar activities. The transferred officials, in all probability, will continue their activities in their new work arena. Reforms are necessary to improve vigilance andmake the system fool-proof and transparent. Policing the police has also become necessary.