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Prevention of unnatural deaths not always easy: Jail officials

As in the outside world, one could take the extreme step even if the person is lodged in a prison despite the monitoring of the authorities.

Published: 28th February 2020 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th February 2020 06:25 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI:  As in the outside world, one could take the extreme step even if the person is lodged in a prison despite the monitoring of the authorities. With the suicide bid by Jollyamma Joseph, aka Jolly, on Thursday in Kozhikode District Jail, discussion on unnatural deaths inside prisons has come to the fore.  
In 2018, the death of Vannathamveetil Soumya of Padannakkara, who was accused in the sensational Pinarayi serial murder case, in the Kannur women’s prison had sparked a controversy. She committed suicide by hanging herself from a cashew tree near the prison’s toilet. Since Soumya was the lone accused in the incident in which her parents and daughter were allegedly poisoned to death one by one, the ongoing investigation came to a standstill following her death.

Last year also, the death of 68-year-old M J Jacob, a remand prisoner in the Mavelikkara special sub-jail, had triggered a row. Jacob was found dead in the cell on March 21, a day after his arrest in a financial fraud case. Dismissing the allegations of security lapses on the part of prison authorities in the cases of suicide, DIG Prisons S Suresh said one could commit suicide inside the jails despite the strict monitoring by officers. “In instances of suicide, we could not receive any indication. An inmate who behaves normally may be found dead after a couple of minutes. Recently, an inmate took the extreme step by hanging inside the toilet of the Poojapura Central Prison. In the majority of the cases, the inmates had committed suicide using the dresses they wore,” he added. 

As per the report of National Crime Records Bureau, the mode of suicide by prisoners in the state is mainly hanging. In its latest report, five unnatural deaths in the jails were reported in 2018. While three unnatural deaths were reported in 2017, 2016 witnessed four such cases. According to prison officers, when an unnatural death occurs in a prison, it is reported to the police, who register an FIR and initiate a probe. If the death is due to suicide, the reason behind is investigated.

Noted criminologist James Vadakkumchery is also of the view that jail officers could not be blatantly blamed for Jolly’s attempt. “The police have filed a report that Jolly is undergoing severe mental trauma and exhibits suicide tendency. If there is no monitoring from the officers’ side, she would have committed suicide earlier,” he added.  According to the figures available with the Prisons Department, 289 persons lost their lives in jails across the state from April 1, 2011 to December 31, 2018.

Unnatural deaths in prisons
2016    4
2017    3
2018    5
2019    4

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