“If the inmates were using items that are not allowed inside the prison, it was because of a few jail officials who permitted it. We will certainly identify those responsible for allowing such rampant violations. Action will be taken against them,” a senior official disclosed.
Following the DTNext story on the comfortable lives of some inmates at Puzhal jail, with pictures, getting published on Thursday, the higher authorities initiated a crackdown. They seized as many as 18 TV sets, using which the inmates were found charging their mobile phones, which are banned.
The shocking pictures from inside the prison, including the lavish spread of meals, beds, curtains, mobile phones along with selfies of inmates dressed in branded clothes, published in this newspaper had gone viral.
The pictures published in the paper were retrieved from a mobile phone seized from a prisoner during a raid.
After preliminary inquiries, it was revealed that the prisoners had access to those banned facilities after they bribed a few prison staff.
Officials had been seizing mobile phones and ganja from prison inmates across the State for long time now. Two weeks back, a jail staff at the Puzhal prison was caught with ganja he was smuggling in to be handed over to a Sri Lankan national, who was arrested on charges of spying for Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI.
Phones and ganja are smuggled in by relatives and others visiting the prisoners by concealing them in food items like bread or toiletry products like soap. Jail staff also smuggle in the banned products, if they receive a large sum as bribe, sources said.
Surprise raids at Coimbatore and Salem prisons yield no major finds
Following media reports of a few inmates at the Puzhal prison in Chennai leading a luxurious lifestyle with access to amenities like mattresses and mobile phones, police conducted surprise raids at the Coimbatore and Salem Central Prisons on Sunday.
However, they were not able to make any major seizures from the prisoners.
“Barring a few beedi rolls, we did not recover anything else from the prisoners,” said an official involved in the raid at Coimbatore. No illegal items were seized at the Salem prison either.
A large team comprising of 60 personnel led by Assistant Commissioner Sundaraj commenced the raid at 6 am in Coimbatore with the assistance of prison officials.
The bomb squad personnel had pressed into service a sniffer dog and metal detectors for the purpose. While the police looked out for cell phones, ganja and other banned items, at the end of their search, which lasted for several hours, they managed to seize only seven packs of beedi.
At Salem, the raid was carried out by a team comprising of 43 cops under the supervision of Assistant Commissioner (Salem South) Sundaramurthy. Even the prison staff were not allowed to leave the premises during the raid.
Meanwhile, Muhammed Rafiq, a prisoner, who was reportedly accorded VIP treatment at the Puzhal prison was transferred to the Coimbatore Central Prison. He was brought here amid high police security on Sunday morning.
Law minister plays down media reports
Minister for Law and Prisons C V Shanmugam on Sunday sought to play down media reports of prison inmates leading a luxurious lifestyle, claiming the only crime committed by them (prisoners)was possessing mobile phones.
Speaking to media persons here, the minister said, “Prisoners in Class A cells are entitled to have their own television sets. It is not a violation as reported by a section of media. It is wrong to assume that prisoners are leading a luxurious life just because of the presence of entitlements, which are guaranteed to them under rule 228 of the Prison Manual.”
Shanmugam said that apart from possessing mobile phones the inmates were not involved in any other crime. “However, five of them were shifted out of the Puzhal prison and the TVs present in their cell were removed. Efforts are being taken to set up common television sets in the prison corridors to avoid inmates having individual TVs in their cell,” he said.
The minister further said that inmates need not wear the prison uniform during their non-working hours. “They can also paint their own rooms. The prisons department would provide the paint if the inmates need it,” he said.