The industrial units in various Central Prisons across the State would soon start manufacturing products to be sold to the public under the concept of Prison Bazaar, said Additional Director-General of Police (Prisons), S.K. Dogra here on Friday.

He was talking to reporters at Coimbatore after an annual inspection and parade at the Central Prison Grounds. DIG of Prisons, Coimbatore Range, P. Govindarajan and Superintendent of Central Prison - Coimbatore A. Murugesan also took part.

Mr.Dogra said that the industrial units manufacturing products for Prison Bazaar would be able to utilise the man hours of the prisoners effectively, helping them acquire skills in addition to earnings, which in turn would help their livelihood on release.

Government has already issued an order for provision of Rs 45 lakhs for starting a bakery unit at Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai. Manufacturing of various products and marketing them to the public under Prison Bazaar would commence at the other central prisons very shortly. Hitherto, the products of the prison industrial units such as uniform materials for Uniformed Services in Government, shoes, file pads and book binding works were offered only to Government Departments. Henceforth these products as well as various other products would be made available to the public under the Prison Bazaar concept. The product range would not be rigid.

There was no point in making prisoners produce products with hereditary skills of the last two to three decades. These skills would become obsolete soon, he added. Latest technology, techniques and skills would be tapped in identifying and manufacturing products for the Prison Bazaar. These products would have the value addition, so as to compete with the other producers in the open market.

Mr.Dogra said that the concept of establishing Public Call Offices (PCOs) in the Prisons was taking shape. As many as 58 PCOs would come up Central Prisons across the State. Officials from Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu, which bagged the order, were expected at the Coimbatore Prison on Friday to identify the locations for installing PCOs. He said that every prisoner would be given a smart card with a talk time of 30 minutes per month to pre-determined numbers. The prisoner would have to provide the numbers in advance, two numbers of his relative and another number of his lawyer. The prisoner could make calls only to these numbers and could be done only by affixing his thumb impression on a bio-metric enabled system. Exchange of talk time with another prisoner or calling any other number would not be possible.

The facility would become operational in the Central Prisons across the State within a month or two, he added. With regard to under-trials outnumbering the convicts at the central prisons, Mr.Dogra said that as against the sanctioned capacity of 22,000 prisoners in all central prisons put together, the State had only an average of 13,000 to 14,000 prisoners. Escorts had never been a problem for producing the under-trials before the courts. He pointed out that in Chennai Puzhal Prison, the Police had permanently placed a platoon for providing escorts. When asked about emulating the same in other prisons, he said positioning a platoon would be a drain of manpower in other prisons and in such places escorts could be arranged on a need based approach, as the co-operation was overwhelming from the police for the same.

On upgradation of sub-jails into district jails to ease pressure on Central Prisons and reduce the pressure on police escort, Mr.Dogra said such a problem no longer existed in Tamil Nadu and said that the focus was now more on changing the ambience of the prisons and not in upgrading them.