Gujarat’s only woman jail superintendent shares her life’s journey

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Banno Joshi, a 2014 batch GPS officer, is currently posted at Rajkot Central Jail as Superintendent of Police. She shared her journey to being the only current woman officer to head a Central Jail in Gujarat with IANS in an exclusive interview.

Joshi, who hails from Junagadh, joined as DySP after clearing the GPSC examinations in 2014 and was posted as ACP – Rajkot City (East). She got promoted to SP rank in 2019 and was transferred to Rajkot Central Jail. Since then, she has been bringing in several jail reforms and had invited Kiran Bedi last week to visit the Rajkot Central Jail and to address the prisoners through the Jail FM Radio.

Banno Joshi stays in Rajkot with her husband, a government officer, and a 12-year-old son. Talking about her family’s support in her journey, Joshi mentions that she is not from a police background, yet her family provided her 100% support. Even today they are supporting me very well, and without them, I would not be able to succeed in my job, she says.

Joshi is currently the only woman officer posted in the Prisons Department as a superintendent. Sharing her views, Joshi said that the prisoners or the staff may have felt uncomfortable initially, but now they have accepted me, and I have received good support from my peers and subordinates.

Speaking about the challenges, she says that challenges can be there in any job. Every job has its drawbacks, challenges, or positive side to it. Hence, I don’t treat this job any differently, whoever works would be the only one to know the challenges that the job carries.

Sharing her views on gender disparity, or gender related challenges, Joshi said that being a female police officer is no longer a rarity. It may have happened many years ago that the department would treat a female officer differently. There are women across the ranks from constable to officer. So, now the department is quite used to having women officers.

Prisons comprise of undertrial or convicted criminals, and Joshi says that prisons should be seen as Correction Centres. Rather than judging the criminals based on their background, or their criminal history, our focus should be on reforming their lives. Many of them do repent their crimes. So we try to provide a favourable environment to them. We arrange many vocational courses, meditation camps so they can be diverted and reformed. We try to provide them with as normal a life as possible within the jail.

Living with the hardened criminals is not easy. Joshi compares prison to a school. Just like students, all criminals are not similar. The way teachers punish the children, the same way prisons have their internal trials, and certain disciplinary actions are taken to ensure that the criminals improve their behaviour.

Senior jailor B.B. Parmar, who works with Joshi in Rajkot Central Jail, shares his experience of working with her. Parmar says that she is emotional yet neutral. Being a woman, it is obvious that she would be sensitive towards people. She understands the issues of female prisoners, and at the same time, she can take firm decisions as well. We don’t think of her as a female officer, she is Sir to us. The department runs by a process and she follows the rules and process religiously and we are fully aligned with her.

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