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Prison building demolition proposal forwarded to government

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EVOCATIVE OF MEMORIES: R. Nataraj, DGP (Prisons), visited the erstwhile Central Jail complex near the Government General Hospital in Chennai on Monday. —
EVOCATIVE OF MEMORIES: R. Nataraj, DGP (Prisons), visited the erstwhile Central Jail complex near the Government General Hospital in Chennai on Monday. —

Special Correspondent

The property to be handed over to departments concerned before March

CHENNAI: The proposal to demolish the buildings that housed the Central Prison, near Government General Hospital, has been forwarded to the State government. Public Works Department officials entrusted with the demolition work said they had been instructed to complete the work immediately and hand over the property to the departments concerned before March.

R. Nataraj, Director General of Police (Prisons), who visited the complex, said the erstwhile prison, spread over 14.3 acres, had become logistically unsafe to house prisoners and the structures were dilapidated.

About 1.02 acres of prison land was handed over in 1992 for expansion of suburban railway routes. Another acre is required to set up an electrical substation for the Metro Rail project. The rest of the land will be used to build a state-of-the-art blood bank for the Government General Hospital.

Central Jail, built in 1837, is among the oldest in the country and used to be known as Madras Penitentiary until 1855 when it was renamed as Central Jail. Freedom fighter Veer Savarkar was housed here before being shipped to the Andaman jail.

The first Superintendent of Police for Prisons held the position for 10 years. It was only in 1961 that a police officer of the rank of an Inspector General was posted, Mr. Nataraj said.

He recalled the escape of two international smugglers in 1968, ‘Auto’ Sankar in 1990 and eight LTTE supporters in 1994. The prison also saw a bloody riot in 1999 in which a jailor was burnt to death.

Three Chief Ministers, including C.N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, besides a number of other political leaders were imprisoned in the verdant complex at various points of time.

Death by hanging was discontinued in 1970 after the Presidential pardon of two prisoners on Gandhi Jayanthi Day, he said.

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