As part of a modernisation drive and to prevent visitors giving away banned items to prisoners, the Prison Department is planning to go in for boxes with a glass separation at the Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai. It would later be extended to other prisons in the State, said K.R. Shyamsundar, Additional Director-General of Police and Director-General of Prisons.
Mr. Shyamsundar told reporters that at the Puzhal prison there would be ten to 12 such cubicles with glass separation with no opening and a prisoner can interact with the visitor over phone.
Similarly, centralised surveillance cameras are also being planned for Puzhal, he said.
In the last 100 days, the prison staff had seized 75 cellular phone handsets and 45 SIM cards in a bid to ensure that no prisoner was enjoying any privilege other than what was prescribed in the jail manual.
To step up vigil and surveillance, the Prison Department has roped in the services of police personnel for intelligence gathering to prevent collusion by prison staff.
The SIM cards were being verified to find out whether calls were made to family members or to accomplices and associates. Mr. Shyamsundar wanted a report on such checks and seizures as well as in tracking of the numbers contacted.
Mr. Shyamsundar also said that the prison information system is being established so as to link them with the Crime Record Bureaus to keep a tab on prisoners and also on their discharge.
With the help of Discharged Prisoners Aid Society, the Prison Department, with the help of NGOs, is trying change the mindset of the villagers from where these prisoners come from.
Some prisoners could be victims of circumstances and on discharge they should not be going through stigma or taboo and these efforts are aimed at bringing in acceptability among the public, he said.
The government has accorded sanction for setting up phone booths to be run by NGOs in prisons.
Prisoners should give an advance notice of numbers that they would prefer to call, that is, family members, relatives and advocates. This would help in prison security staff also monitor the phone calls. This is expected to be in place in all central prisons in the State by March 2010.
Prisons in Tamil Nadu were not overcrowded, only undertrials and remand prisoners population outnumbered the convict prisoners.
As on date, prisons in Tamil Nadu accounted for one per cent of convict prisoners and 1.3 per cent of remand prisoners who have been tested HIV positive.
The tests were done only on those who volunteered to undergo the same. With the help of NGOs, the Prison Department has planned to counsel these prisoners.