Four truckloads of contraband goods seized from prison

The seizure of a huge cache of contraband goods in a raid on the Central Jail here on Wednesday has thrown the spotlight on security aspects at the jail.

The raid, conducted by Jail officials assisted by a large contingent of police personnel, unearthed four truckloads of smuggled goods, including mobile phones, mobile chargers, SIM cards, mobile phone batteries, ear phones, small kitchen knives, drugs and pillows. The raid was led by Additional Director-General of Police (Prison) Alexander Jacob in the wake of the pre-dawn jailbreak by two hardcore convicted criminals on June 14. The information gathered from one of escapees who was arrested on Wednesday from Udhagamandalam in Tamil Nadu leaves much to be desired about the security in the prison, which has nearly 1,200 inmates and 105 jail staff.

Briefing reporters on the jail premises on Wednesday, Dr. Jacob said some of the illegal materials recovered from the jail such as firewood and wooden logs could be used as weapons during a clash. The prisoners had been illegally cooking food in their blocks for several years “with or without the consent of the jail staff,” he added.

According to jail authorities, a major obstacle to enforcing efficient security was the shortage of jail staff. Remand and undertrial prisoners are now being transferred to sub-jails and special sub-jails to reduce the number of inmates in the jail. Dr. Jacob has announced that over 150 remand and undertrial prisoners will be shifted from the prison and 53 inmates will be transferred to the open jail at Cheemeni.

The high-security Kannur Central Prison, whose inmates include 'political prisoners' (a misnomer often used to describe convicted or undertrial political party workers involved in political violence), has been in focus among the three Central Jails in the State since the murder of a convicted Communist Party of India (Marxist) worker in a clash between CPI(M) and Bharatiya Janata Party/Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (BJP/RSS) inmates in the prison in April 2004. Since then, security arrangements in the jail were stepped up to prevent smuggling in of items, including mobile phones, drugs and weapons.

The jail authorities were criticised by the High Court over their handling of the issue of transferring ‘political prisoners' from the jail here to the Central Jail at Viyyur. The then Director-General of Police (Prison) M.G.A. Raman told the court in October 2007 that the jail staff were scared of the prisoners.

The latest seizure indicates that the illegal smuggling of the items, including mobile phones, had continued in spite of strengthening security arrangements. The jail officials say the 105 jail staff, including many untrained ones, were often helpless in handling the 1,200-odd inmates.