Thursday, November 17, 2011

Island Jails: Issues Galore


Island Jails: Issues Galore

In a representation submitted to the Administration, the jail staff has proposed various changes in the functioning of jails in the Islands. They have also proposed to declare and upgrade the District Jail at Prothrapore to Central Jail and also sought the intervention of the authorities to look into the grievances of the staff like anomalies in pay structure, shortage of staff at various levels and lack of training.

By Staff Reporter

The District Jail at Prothrapore, which has a capacity of 250 inmates, is brimming with more than 1000 prisoners to date.
The Jail inmates and the staff have been facing many crucial issues since long time, which has not been addressed by the Administration. To mitigate the problems faced by the Jail staff, an initiative was taken by S. N. Chtatterji Inspector General of Prison along with Rizwanullah, Deputy Secretary (Jail) and Govind Ram, Superintendent (I/c) District  Jail to meet the Guarding Staffs attached to District Jail, Prothrapur. In the staff meeting organized in Jail premises on 02/11/2011, the guarding staffs raised several crucial issues/problems facing by them. The IG Prison showed keen interest in their grievances. The Superintendent in his speech assured to highlight the issues with the higher authorities. The crucial issues related with the Prison Administration which directly reflects towards correctional policies were presented by the guarding staffs such as shortage of staff, anomaly in pay scale, correctional training for guarding staffs, preliminary arrangement for Prison Development Board to visit Jail, upgradation of existing District Jail to Central Prison, Sub-Jail Mayabundar to District Prison to sort out the overcrowding problems. It is reported that the IG Prisons, holding such a meeting for the first time was surprised that not a single recruitment has taken place in the last one decade, where hundreds of posts are lying vacant in various hierarchies.  The prison staffs are holding the same post from their initial appointment till their retirement. No Correctional Administration Training have been provided to any guarding personnel in spite of specific provision in   A & N Prison Manual. Even though the prison administration has acres of land lying vacant, overcrowding is a serious problem.
Highlighting the various issues, the jail staff has presented a representation to the Administration to look into the problems. The representation had highlighted the issues of staff shortage, training and infrastructure.
The employees complains that the staff strength is much low than the ratio mentioned in the Prison Manual. The strength of the guarding staff is determined by considering the security, duty post, workload and distribution of functions. In principle the ratio of guarding staff with respect to the prisoners will be 1:6. But, at present, the ratio is 1:20. According to Jail Manual the Warder, Head warder and Chief Head Warder should be in the ratio of 25:5:1. Hence, based on the total number of prisoners at present scenario (approx 1000), the ratio must be 175:35:7.
The ratio of Deputy Jailor, Jailor and Deputy Superintendent should be in the ratio of 4:2:1, whereas it is now in the ratio of 1:2:0. The staff strength should have been reviewed on a regular basis by systematic study of manpower needs so that there is regular intake of new recruits. All the staff are supposed to get at least three promotions during the entire span of their service. But there are many instances, when a person recruited as a Warder retires as a warder itself.
It has also sought the intervention of the administration to look into the anomalies in pay structure. The salary of the prison staff should be at par with those of equivalent ranks in the A&N Police Department. There was a pay disparity between the prison staff and the police department after the fourth and fifth pay commission recommendations. When this matter was brought to the notice of the CAT, the pay of the prison staff was made equivalent to that of the Police Department, A&N Islands. The same pay anomaly was repeated in the sixth pay commission. When this issue was raised in the CAT, the case of the prison staff was not properly presented by the department and due to this, the pay-band of the prison staff continues to be lower than that of the A & N Police Department.
To meet emergency situations, reserve guards should have been deployed from the existing eligible warders. The A & N Prison manual was introduced during the year 2004. Inspite of that no recruitment of Reserve Guard have been conducted by the department. Consequently the present staff has to handle the situation without any proper training.  In central and district prison, an Emergency Squad should have been formed, consisting of personnel below forty years of age. The personnel of this squad should be given special training in handling various emergencies or unforeseen situations. The squad should have been properly equipped and ready for action. Most of the emergency equipments viz. Steel helmet, tear gas equipment, water hoses, etc. are also not available.
The training of Warders, Head Warders and Chief Head Warders is mandatory for a period not less than 9 months from State Correctional Training Institute(SICA). But till now, only physical training has been given to the staff posted at District jail, Prothrapur. As Jails are correctional administration the guarding staffs have been not provided such training from any correctional institution till date. Moreover, facilities like leave, medical aid and concession in hours of work must be provided during convalescence period.
As per the manual, to improve and modernize the facilities of the prison, the Prison Development Board must be constituted under the Chairmanship of Hon'ble Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The IG Prisons has to be the Ex-officio Managing Director of the board. Regular visits to the prison by the members of this board would have radically improved the working conditions of the prison. It would have created conducive atmosphere for the welfare and well-being of the staff as well as the prisoners. But it is surprising that till date no such visits have been conducted/organized by the department for upgrading the prevailing condition of the prison staff/department.
The employees demand that a staff welfare committee must be immediately constituted, which will be able to build a welfare fund, run a staff welfare canteen etc. The welfare fund can be raised by monthly subscription from the staff members. This fund can be utilized for medical aid, education of the children and for recreational purposes.
Further, in the representation, the staff has put forth the suggestion to declare the District Jail, Prothrapur as a Central Jail. This matter was already taken up in the two consecutive five year plans i.e. 2007-12 and 2012-17. This will increase the number of posts in various hierarchies, thus improving the promotion channel for the staffs.           Already the upgradation work of District Jail is carried out by the Administration, in that context the construction of Compound Wall for new site at District Jail, Prothrapur and Phanighat, Mayabundar are already completed. But, the remaining work i.e. construction of building is pending for a long time. The suitable meetings along with APWD/Administration are required to be taken on top priority basis for carried out the building construction work.
Sub-Jail/Judicial Lockup at Mayabunder always having an average strength of about 15-20 prisoners. And there is only 05 male warders, 01 female warder and 01 Head Warder. Thus, if any female prisoner is newly admitted in Jail, then the single female warder has to face problem for getting a female police guard as a reliever for her from the nearest Police Station. The staffs deputed at those places are unable to get leave. They have also demandedconstruction of staff quarters for all guarding staff. The same problem is faced by Jail staff posted at Sub-Jail, Campbell Bay and Sub-Jail, Car Nicobar. Because, the staff ratio is similar or less than that of Sub-Jail/Judicial Lockup Mayabundar.

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