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Inside the Yerwada Jail

Built in 1871, Yerwada Jail is the biggest jail in the Asia. It is situated in Yerwada area of Pune city in Maharashtra. The prison is spread over an area of 500 acres with a capacity of 2500 inmates, which is currently being occupied by 6000 inmates.

The national movement during the British era gave rise to the concept of prison. And the forts were converted into prisons. During the British era, our freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallav bhai Patel, Shubhash Chandra Bose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, etc, had served as inmates in this particular prison. In the memory of our freedom fighter , the Gandhi Yard has been built within the jail, with the statues built inside and even the wall is filled with the frames containing the pictures which describes the term of the stay, the belongings and the details of our freedom fighters.

The entrance of the Yerwada Jail was earlier engrossed with the British crown, but after independence it was replaced by the Ashoka Emblem. The prison has two security walls, where the presence of one wall cannot be determined through the other wall. The prison comprises of Canteen, library, radio stations, meeting hall, stationary stores, small function hall, kitchen, and also different small production areas to facilitate expertise of work in factories.

There exists a projector room, for the prisoners with a capacity of 300, which displays programs focusing on mentality change. The hospital built inside the prison is well equipped and only for the purpose of surgery the inmates are taken to a government hospital near the Pune Railway Station. There exists a canteen for the prisoners which operates from 6am to 6pm every day.

The library consists of more than 10000 books and has newspapers in 3 different languages. The radio station has its speakers which are in all the barracks also every barrack has TV in it. The wiring parts of Mahindra boleros, Shoes named as inmates as brand, Clothes and types of furniture are made in the production areas situated inside the jail premises. The kitchen is well built with many shelves properly built, places to cook different food, Prisoners work as chef in these kitchens. There is a proper place built even to cut the vegetables. The jail premises have been properly maintained and have also devoted prisoners who work to keep the premises clean and green along with jail officials.

Inside the prison the prisoners are categorized into different categories and differentiated on the basis of badges provided to them. The normal prisoners wear a normal white badge. The ones who monitor the prison are awarded with yellow badges. The ones with Violet/ Blue bands are the volunteers.

Red band is awarded to the ones who have tried to escape. Also there is a provision for the prisoners to work and earn on a daily basis based upon the category of work whether it be skilled/ unskilled or new. The entire pay is credited at the end of the month to the account linked with the inmate. Also, each inmate is being allowed allowance of Rs. 4500/- from their family members.

Yerwada Jail is centre for rehabilitation rather than punishment. It resembles a small village inhabiting 6000 people.

Inside the Prison
We were not allowed to taking anything inside the prison not even a penny. We were only allowed to carry a notebook and pen with us.

Before entering the premises we were checked by the prison authorities. We crossed two security posts in the administrative block itself. One at the entry of the administrative block and other at the exit. The exit of the administrative block led us to the inside of the prison premises.

When any person comes to meet his any relative in jail then firstly he/she take the permission from the Jail authorities. All the officers very strictly did their duty. They check every person who enters in the gate. There are close circuit cameras to see all the activity in the jail. This jail is very advance.

First we were taken to the Gandhi Era, where we were briefed about the national movement and the time when our freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Shubhash Chandra Bose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Etc were kept. After that we were taken to the kitchen, where we found the prisoners working as chefs. Also the diet chart for the prisoner was put at the entrance and a sample of the meal given at that particular day was kept.

As it was Saturday the library was closed as results of which we dint get the opportunity to visit the library. We were then taken to the community center located in the prison premises where we had an interaction with the Jail Superintendent. It was a very interaction session followed by a lot of discussion. There was a particular prisoner in the community centre handling the microphone system. During the discussion even he told us how his perspective has changed over his years of stay at the prison. After the session, we were taken to the Radio Station.

To reach the Radio station, we had to cross a small barrack where the new prisoners were seated. Most of them were in surrendered position. In the Radio Station, we met the prisoner who had been operating the station since last 12 years. During the interaction with him, he told us that the premises dint have any radio frequency Infact the speakers in the barracks were directly linked through wires.

The prisoner seemed to be a very learned man After the Radio Station we were taken to the mulakat kaksh, the place where the prisoners were allowed to meet their relatives or advocated. The incharge of the mulakat kaksh briefed was about the timings and the rules of the place. After that we headed out of the prison through the administrative block.

We had a great experience. It gave us a lot of idea about how a prison looks like and a glimpse of life inside a prison. The prison had no network. It had jammers throughout. Even the prison authorities contacted through wakie talkies. We came out to know about the various activities which goes on inside a prison. Also it made us know that the Prison is more of a centre for rehabilitation rather than punishment.

The prison keeps on organizing courses which would be beneficial to them once they are released. We were told that recently a house- keeping course was organized in the prison, for which a certificate was given, and this would easily fetch the job once they are out. The interaction with the jail super indent made a lot of change in our perspective regarding the prison authorities. In this jail there are many types of factories, in which the prisoners work in the day time. The work in the jail has done by convicted and under trial prisoners also. The products which are made by convicted, those products sold in exhibitions, by the jail authority. These products are made on the demand of merchants.

Issues of Prison Administration

Though a set of guideless has been set up by the prison manual and the Yerwada prison adheres to it. There are certain problems faced by it.
The major issues are as follows:
  • Yerwada Jail has a capacity of 2500 prisoners but it is being being occupied by around 6000 inmates.
  • There is a shortage of personnel as compared with the number of prisoners.
  • There are fewer cells as compared to the number of prisoners. As a result of which the cells are overcrowded leading to a deficiency of the sleeping spaces during nights.
  • The number of chefs is less but the number of prisoners consuming the food is very high. Thereby lading to burden on few.
  • The burden on Guarding staff is very high. As per the prison manual there needs to be one guard for every 6 prisoners. But because of the high number of prisoners, this criterion fails to meet.
  • The burden on Medical Personnel is also very high. As per the prison manual there needs to be one personnel for every 300 prisoners. But because of the high number of prisoners, even this criterion fails to meet.
  • The prison is faced with a lot of media criticizing which has led to chaos.

Infrastructure Setup
The number of prisoners in a single barrack should not be more than 20 prisoners. In case of any contagious disease, they should be kept in separate rooms. And for those who are pursuing studies they should be kept in a single room. During winters the prisoners should be provided with heating facility in their barracks. Also, rules as to the barrack�s make is also given, wherein ventilation, floor, verandahs, door size, as well as berth size is being prescribed. It also specifies that in case of overcrowding of barrack, then such excess prisoners should be shifted to another such institution.

Every prisoner needs to be provided a secure storage compartment to hold their personal belongings.

There are rules for toilets size and also the ratio of prisoners to that of the number of toilets to be constructed. As, per the current rules, there needs to sufficient number of attached toilets in each barracks with usage of it in the ratio of 10 per unit during the rest of the day and 6 per unit during the morning hours. Also, a western toilet needs to be provided for every 2 toilets installed in the barracks. The same is specified for bathing places, with a provision to insist on developing rain water harvesting for the same.

Work By the Prisoners
Every prisoner is allowed to labour 8 hour in a day from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Under trial prisoners can't work in prison. But under trial prisoners can do work if they want to do work. Salary of the prisoners is fixed at rupess 61 for the skilled and rupees 5 for non skilled.

The inmates have to prepare the food for the whole prison department and the prisoners as well in this kitchen. Food for about 6000 people is prepared by the inmates per meal. Based on the work done, health commission decides the nutrient intake by the prisoners. A diet chart has been set out determing the amount of food to be served. For example those who are convicted are to be served with 4 rotis whereas those under trial are to be served with 3

The prisoners are served with 3 meals per day. After the meal is prepared, they are first checked by the food inspector and then served. They are provided provided with a light meal for breakfast followed by mid day and evening meals. The meals are never repeated, i.e., the morning food is not served in the evening. The menu has different meals for each day. Also in case of religious festivals, special food is cooked and served to the prisoners. There is register maintained wherein the complains regarding the foods served can be written.

There are provisions prescribing the clothes to be worn based on convicted prisoners and under trial prisoners. The convicted prisoners are being provided with bedding as well specified clothes as per the department. Whereas, in case of under trial prisoners, they can access bedding and clothes upon an application to the Jail Superintendent. And, in case of any visit to the court, then they are to wear their private clothes, which are deposited by them at the time of entry into the prison.

In order to maintain proper hygiene, prisoners have been issued guidelines to wash their clothes once in a week, for which washing materials are to be provided by the jail authorities. And, such clothes which become irreparable, i.e. which becomes unfit to wear to be used as rags for cleaning purposes, and should not be used for any other purpose and neither should be used for other prisoners clothing.

Special emphasis needs to be given on the cleanliness of the jail premises. The walls should either be painted or white washed from time to time and also planting of trees should be emphasized in the jail premises. Along with it, the toilets need to be cleaned twice or more as necessary with disinfectants.

Water Supply
In case of water supply, it should either be made via water supply provided by Municipal Corporation or should be provided by through wells to serve the purpose. In case of drawing through wells, then every week a test report should be conducted and the test result should be recorded for the same. Also, clean drinking water should be emphasized and provided upon by proper treatment as per direction by Superintendent.

Medical Help
For, proper care of the prisoners, medical personnel are being appointed and they are to assess the sick prisoners regularly, and also should have the provision to visit the prison even on Sundays and holidays, if necessary. Proper trainings and session are to be organized for drug addicts and also adherence to fulfillment of special needs of aged prisoners should be met.

Social Relationship
The prisoners are allowed to see and communicate with their family members, relatives, friends and legal representative for the preparation of an appeal or for procuring bail. In case of any interview by the prisoners, then a permission from the Superintendent. And, for any interview purpose, the days and hours for such must be fixed, and should not be allowed on any other day or time distinct from the fixed time and day. And, normally the duration of it shall not extend half an hour and could be extended upon the jurisdiction of Superintendent.

For imparting education, prisoners would be provided with library in the premises, and also an option to pursue higher education through Open University established in every prison. Though, education is important, but there is also scope for skills development which would develop discipline, attitude as well as help in physical and metal well being of the prisoners.

Prison follows a set of rules in order to meet the aim and the mission set by it. Various development activities are also organized in the prison such as theatre, cultural activiyies, sports etc. A legal aid cell has also been set up for providing free legal services.Also prison panchayat has been set up inside the prison for solving the internal conflicts. Various social workers help in maintaining the relations of the prisoners with their families. Also there is an annual good conduct review done on the basis of which the prisoners are awarded. For example if someone saves someone's life or someone has worked a lot, they will be given radiation. The prison works with the belief that No one can live alone , hence they focus on social life a lot.

Yerwada Prison has a very good environment for rehabilitation. Out of 6000 prisoners, more than 5800 are claimed to be on the path on improving. The prisoners are really very well behaved. Every prisoner is given occasional training. Even the NGO's are called to help people. The main motive of the prison is to bring about a change. In order to focus on the mental condition of the prisoners, they are made to be actively involved in the day to day functioning. Yerwada Prison has to a great extend always achieved the aims and the visions set by it.

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