From Rs 36.97 crore in 2014-15, the income grew to Rs 72.79 crore in the fiscal 2018-19.
According to books, the income generated by the prison inmates through industrial production was Rs 36.97 crore during the financial year 2014-15. By 2018-19, it has become Rs 72.79 crore. In the last five years, the total revenue earned stood at Rs 239.54 crore.
A good number of prison departments across the country have been trying to create a successful business model using convicts as manpower. However, in terms of revenue generated, Tamil Nadu has been remaining on top for the past several years.
It had a modest beginning, with the State allocating a corpus fund of Rs 5 crore to build a raw material bank in 2015.
Over the years, the Prison department had been engaging convict prisoners of nine central jails in the State in activities like weaving, book binding, soap making, tailoring, carpentry, baking, and producing sealing wax, boots, shoe polish, handmade paper, fly ash bricks, sanitary napkins and LED lights, etc.
“With a view to offer practical experience to the prisoners, coping skills and production skills are imparted to them, which would enable them to have better employability when they are released and thus preventing them from reverting to crimes so as to earn money,” noted ADGP Abhash Kumar, who is currently heading the Prison department.
Products made in the prisons are sold to various government departments. Products like uniform clothes, belts, caps, uniform shoes, shoe polish, rain coats and mosquito nets are required for Police, Fire and Prison departments, while sealing wax, tags, file pads, postal covers, bandage cloth, soap, other textiles, fire buckets, bed side lockers, etc. are supplied to various government departments.
The department is currently running five petrol bunks, all managed by inmates of various central prisons. “Six more petrol bunks are in the offing,” said a senior officer. Over the years, some of the jails have specialised in specific work. For instance, the prison in Coimbatore is known for production of clothing for decades, while it is leather products at Vellore prison.
Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation, which is entrusted with the construction of all buildings for the Police department, use fly ash bricks made by the convicts.
Apart from the industrial production, Freedom Bazaars that are set up in a central prisons and select sub-jail premises, sell bakery items, leather shoes, wallets, nursery products, detergent soaps, sanitary napkins, candles, mosquito nets, readymade garments, honey, masala powder, note books, organic vegetables, cold pressed oil and compost manure made by prisoners. Since they started functioning, the cumulative turn over from Freedom Bazaars till May end stood at Rs 21.32 crore. Agriculture produces from the jails alone have netted around Rs 1.15 crore.
Though the jails are providing ample scope for convicts to undergo vocational training, the status of released prisoners has been a neglected area. “After care is an important subject and a lot can be done in the area. We are studying various possibilities improving the situation so that once released, they get integrated into the mainstream society and not back to the world of crime,” the officer noted.