More than 200 inmates have enrolled for diploma in engineering courses

Prison reforms are set to acquire a new dimension in Tamil Nadu with the State Prison Department contemplating to introduce engineering degree courses for inmates.

With a majority of literate prisoners showing keen interest in higher studies, particularly technical courses such as computer science, the jail authorities have planned to take a step ahead by introducing engineering degree courses in leather technology, computer science and textile engineering in association with Tamil Nadu Open University.

“We are in consultations with experts such as the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) and the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) for introducing advanced courses. More than 200 inmates are presently enrolled for seven diplomas in engineering courses in prisons across the State. The first batch will be completing a course in automobile engineering in December,” Additional Director General of Prisons Jalad K. Tripathy said on Friday.

The textile unit in Coimbatore Central Prison and leather factory in Vellore Central Prison were extensively catering to the needs of uniformed services. Inmates in these prisons, presently enrolled in diploma courses, had shown interest in pursuing a degree in engineering.

“We intend to have a computer centre in the Puzhal central prison with the technical assistance of NASSCOM. Many prisoners are computer literate and their services can be utilised to develop software and other Information Technology applications,” he said.

Education seems to have emerged an essential component of prison reforms in Tamil Nadu. Sources in the department say every person entering the prison, no matter the nature of crime he/she is involved, is made to learn something.

“Many remand prisoners and detenus who affixed their left thumb impression while entering the prison managed to sign their names in a fortnight or two. The response to courses in carpentry, automobile mechanism, electrical and electronics and basic computer applications is good. Our objective is to facilitate inmates merge with the mainstream workforce of the society after their release,” a prison official said.

Though the government pays the fee and provides books for the inmates, prison authorities are also looking at sponsors for setting up laboratories. “We will encourage philanthropists to sponsor the education of convicts. On release, the prisoners will have employable qualities and confidence. This exercise will immensely contribute to crime prevention,” he said.

Mr. Tripathy said Mahatma Gandhi Community Colleges were established in all prisons in the State where Indira Gandhi National Open University and other institutions were offering different courses. “Hardcore criminals and habitual offenders are a minority in prisons…it is easy to reform fresh or first time offenders who form a sizeable chunk,” he said.

Keywords: Prison reforms