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Porous Colvale Jail

Miserable state of security in a high security prison

Following the biggest-ever seizure of banned goods in the Colvale central jail, the state government has ordered a probe to find out how they reached inside the jail and fix responsibility. A discreet raid was carried out last week which resulted in seizure of 67 mobile phones, 200 bidi packets and around one kilogramme of alleged narcotic substance hidden in ventilators, toilets and other areas. The government has suspended three jail officials– a jailor, an assistant jailor and a jail guard–who were on duty when the raid was conducted. The inquiry is on and more jail officials are likely to be suspended, as it cannot be the work of two or three of them.  The fact that large numbers of banned goods got smuggled into the jail premises indicates that there was collusion on the part of officials of various grades or total lack of surveillance or checks on those entering the jail premises. The matter should not be taken lightly and has to be probed thoroughly and action taken against those who were responsible for being involved in heinous illegalities.

The raid was conducted by a team jail officials and a separate team of policemen drawn from the Indian Reserve Battalion. A majority of the jail staff, including the IRB police manning the outer-ring and main gate, were kept unaware of the raid. The discreet nature of the raid led to the biggest-ever seizure. However, this is not the first time that prohibited items were found in or near the jail premises. In June this year a small quantity of drug was seized outside the Colvale jail. Though there was no indication of direct involvement of jail staff, the Mapusa police had summoned them for investigation. The seizure was made by personnel of Indian Reserve Battalion when they frisked the rickshaw driver who had come to deliver the kitchen grinder of the jail that had been sent for repairs at a local shop. In August this year, 30 mobiles were found on jail premises and the blame was sought to be put on IRB personnel who look after outer security of the jail.

The Colvale central jail has also been in news for other wrong reasons, such as alleged excesses by the officials. Late in July 2016, a jail inmate, who was an undertrial in drug peddling, murder, Arms Act and other cases, was murdered by a fellow inmate. There was also an instance of jail staff assaulting foreigners lodged in the jail. A jail guard attached to the jail was caught red-handed with narcotics suspected to be ganja weighing 106 grams by an IRB constable at the frisking point. Besides, eight inmates of the jail were booked for assaulting a Russian inmate, and causing him number of injuries. The jail authorities had also suspended four members of staff for conniving with a prisoner charged in a drugs peddling case and releasing him on parole on basis of forged papers. Two others were suspended for supplying tobacco products to jail inmates. Despite many cases of alleged illegalities in the central jail of the state, the authorities have failed to prevent such occurrences.

Seizure of banned substances is an indication that security in the jail was lax. How could the banned substances in such large quantities be found in a high security jail without the connivance of jail staff? It just shows that corrupt elements given the responsibility for security and frisking could go to any extent to make extra money. People convicted for crimes are normally sent to jail for reformation but availability of such items that too easily may prove counter-productive. There is need to revamp security measures at the jail as laxity could lead to even weapons being smuggled into the jail premises and used against inmates to settle personal scores by convicts. The authorities need to tighten the security set-up and ensure that CCTV cameras and other gadgets are installed in the jail premises to deter inmates and corrupt elements. The proposal for installation of surveillance equipment has been pending with the government for long. A thorough probe could help unravel the mystery behind entry of banned items and bring the guilty to book.

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