Does the word prison bring to mind dingy, cramped cells barred by iron? Such an image does not fit the open prison for women inaugurated at Poojappura on Monday.

The prison even has a spacious drawing room painted in warm pink shades. Five more rooms and two bathrooms come into view, all equally roomy, after which there is the kitchen. Climb the grand wooden staircase next to the drawing room to enter a huge hall painted creamy white. The rooms next to it smell of the freshly polished furniture arranged in a neat row. Next to it is a bathroom with blue tiled flooring and a bathtub. And don’t forget the landscaped walkway in front of the veranda, ideal for evening strolls.

When the State’s first open prison for women was inaugurated last October, the officials had said that the prisoners would have to wait another six months as the work on it was not complete. Since the work is taking time, this new building has been assigned now.

Fourteen prisoners from the women’s prison at Attakkulangara were at their new “house.” They said they were happy to shift to this new place.

“Many of us have served 14 to 17 years. We are happy with the new place and will now be able to see our family more often,” said one of the prisoners. Women inmates of three prisons in the State would be shifted to the new open prison in a month. The privileges of these inmates include a daily wage of up to Rs. 117; 15 days of additional home leave; and less restriction for visits by relatives. Those who have completed at least three years in other prisons and satisfy certain criteria listed by a selection committee will be shifted.

Director General of Police, Prisons, Alexander Jacob told The Hindu that the Department of Prisons was planning to replicate the model of the Sanganer Open Jail in Rajasthan at the Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram.

“The department has submitted a proposal to the Home Ministry. If the project is approved, this special open jail, the first of its kind in the State, will come up near the special sub-jail, where convicts are allowed to live with their families after they complete a third of their sentence,” he said.

Nazeera Beevi, Superintendent of the Attakkulangara jail, told The Hindu that the degree of freedom in the open prison would be different from that in ordinary prisons and would largely depend on cooperation among the inmates.

“We will start vegetable cultivation on two acres of land behind this building. Soon we will take up more initiatives to help these women to be independent,” she said.