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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Prisons .. .. sad fall from high perch to cell .. ..

Prisons should make people fear not committing any crimes.  Given that Venezuela has the world’s second highest homicide rate, it’s probably no surprise that Venezuelan prisons are considered to be some of the most violent in the world. Humberto Prado, director of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, states that 80 percent of Venezuelan prisons are actually run by armed inmates. Of those inmates, more than 3,700 of Venezuela’s most violent ones are packed like sardines into Sabaneta, a prison built to house no more than 700.

Another dreaded one is in Guantanamo.   The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a United States military prison located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base,  on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The camp was established by President George W. Bush's administration in 2002 during the War on Terror. His successor, President Barack Obama, promised that he would close it, but met strong bipartisan opposition from Congress, which passed laws to prohibit detainees from Guantanamo being imprisoned in the U.S.  In January 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the detention camp open indefinitely.

Guatemala   is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico, Belize and the Caribbean, Honduras, El Salvador and the Pacific Ocean.  It was shocking to read a news item that - Guatemala’s most dangerous prison has a new king.  Howard Wilfredo Barillas Morales, better known as “Matazetas,” is the latest convict to control all aspects of life in the Pavón prison — a notoriously lawless detention center just outside Guatemala City. Housed in an isolated sector, he has 10 inmate bodyguards and manages an alleged “army” of 60 prisoners who maintain his operations, extorting new detainees and bribing security guards.  The report further states that Barillas Morales has also gained enough power to demand a 10 percent fee on all items smuggled and sold in the jail, from bread to marijuana, according to testimonies from other inmates. 

Never a great movie buff, I cried seeing this film on First day of its release in Kakinada, the theatre was not exactly crowded.  It was a film set in British India in the year 1915.  “Kalapani (Chiraichalai)’ in Telugu. ‘Kaalapani’ shows the sufferings of hundreds of Indian prisoners in the cellular jail – the  extremely inhumane conditions faced by the prisoners in the jail are accurately depicted. Mohanlal as hero,  it was on the  lives of prisoners in British India sentenced to Kālā Pānī, the Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Illayaraja’s music was lifting, yet I felt very gloomy towards the climax. So I was looking forward to the opportunity of visiting this historic place and when it occurred in June 2018, I was overwhelmed.  The imposing cellular jails, to which  the British exiled  political prisoners and treated them cruelly.  It housed many great freedom fighters including Batukeshwar Dutt, Yogendra Shukla and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, among others. Annu Kapoor plays the role of Veer Savarkar who is incarcerated and tries his best to keep the spirit of the prisoners going despite unbelievable torture. Tabu plays Mohanlal's lover who keeps waiting for him to come back.

 now all searches may lead to Tihar Prisons – a high security prison complex, reportedly the largest complex of prisons of South Asia.   Run by Department of Delhi Prisons, Government of Delhi, the prison contains nine central prisons, and is one of the two prison complexes in Delhi, along with a district prison at Rohini Prison Complex. It is located in Tihar village, approximately 3 km from JanakPuri, to the west of New Delhi, India. The surrounding area is called Hari Nagar.  The prison is styled as a correctional institution. Its main objective is to convert its inmates into ordinary members of society by providing them with useful skills, education, and respect for the law. 

Originally, Tihar was a maximum security prison run by the State of Punjab. In 1966 control was transferred to the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Beginning in 1984, additional facilities were constructed, and the complex became Tihar Prison, also largest jail in India.  Under the charge of Kiran Bedi, when she was Inspector General of Prisons, a number of prison reforms were instituted. 

Besides its political inmates that included high profile Sanjay Gandhi – it has housed notorious criminals of the ilk of   Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh; Charles Sobhraj, an international serial killer;       Kuljeet Singh and Jasbir Singh [Billa & Ranga !]  executed in 1982 for the Geeta and Sanjay Chopra kidnapping case;  Anca Neacsu wife of arms dealer Abhishek Verma) co-accused in all his corruption cases; all 6 accused in the 2012 Delhi gang rape; Maqbool Bhat and many hardcore criminals.

Media reports state today that former Finance Minister P Chidambaram was  taken in a police van to Delhi's Tihar Jail, which he and his legal team had fought hard to avoid. A court ordered that he be sent to judicial custody in the INX Media case, which meant that from a guest-room in the CBI headquarters, his living quarters for the next two weeks would be a cell in Asia's largest prison complex. Mr Chidambaram, 74, will be in Jail number seven, Ward nine. Jail Number 7 houses 600-700 inmates, the majority of whom are jailed for crimes against women, though the block has traditionally been used to house economic offenders. Since he has Z-level security, the CBI court agreed to his lawyer Kapil Sibal's request for special facilities. These include a separate cell, a cot (prisoners usually sleep on the floor), a bathroom with western-style facilities, security and medicines.

On being asked about any specific preparations, Director General of Prisons, Sandeep Goyal told news agency IANS: "A jail is a jail. We only follow the court's orders. No one lodged in a jail is special."

Sad to read that a man who held so many high posts including Finance Ministry is now in the jail.
With regards – S. Sampathkumar
5th Sept. 2019.

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