Activists of various human rights organisations have devised a plan of action to bring certain reforms in prison administration and enhance the quality of life in prisons across the State.

A decision to this effect was taken at a ‘Consultation on need for reforms in prison administration in Tamil Nadu’ jointly organised by the People’s Watch and Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation here on Saturday.

Speaking on the occasion, Ossie Fernandes, Director of the foundation, said as a first step Human Rights activists would interview persons released from prisons either on bail or completion of sentence. The status report on the quality of food, water, health care and other amenities would be filed in all district courts.

He said immediate steps would be taken to get copies of reports filed by judicial officers after visiting central and district jails. “We would also seek under the Right to Information Act copies of post-mortem videos done on inmates who died in the recent years. Expert opinion will be sought on such videos.”

Mr. Fernandes said many remand prisoners were languishing in prisons for no reason. “We need more professionally competent counsels in the free legal aid system. The parole norms have to be simplified. Many accused persons are in prisons even when charge sheets were not filed within the mandatory 90 days period. We intend to send our recommendations to the Supreme Court, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Tamil Nadu within a week.”

Fact-finding teams

Society for Integrated Rural Development Director Jeeva said that the fact-finding teams and journalists should have access to prisons and interview inmates at any time. “There needs to be some transparency. We hear from prisoners that the drinking water, food and medical facilities are in a very bad shape.”

People’s Watch Executive Director Henry Tiphagne and representative of different voluntary organisations spoke.

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