Opposition to TN minister’s plan to convert central prisons into open-air jails

Tamil Nadu Law Minister S. Regupathy’s statement that the central prisons in the state would be converted into open-air jails has met with stiff opposition with former police officers, political parties, and social organisations opposing the minister.

The law minister on Monday while addressing media persons after inspecting Coimbatore central prison, stated that plans were afloat to convert central prisons with space into open-air jails after conducting a feasibility study.

The minister also said the plan will be implemented soon once the fund position of the department is cleared. However, retired police officers and social workers have come out against the suggestion.

R. Natarajan, former DGP (Prisons), Government of Tamil Nadu while speaking to IANS said, “It is not possible to house all prisoners in open jails. The department will not be able to monitor different categories of prisoners who are presently lodged in high-security jails. There is no rationale for this thinking.

“Generally, prisoners are transferred to open-air jails after three years in regular prison on the basis of good conduct, but hardened criminals lodged in high-security prisons are not given this benefit. If all jails are converted into open one’s the department will not be able to monitor prisoners.”

Social organisations have also voiced similar concerns on the statement of the law minister

R. Padmanabhan of Socio-Economic Development Foundation, a think tank based out of Madurai while speaking to IANS said, “How can this be possible. The minister seems to be cut out of reality. It is fine to lodge political prisoners and those who have a good track record to be lodged in open prisons but hardened criminals in open jails are a perfect no. This will create problems for other prisoners and the whole system will have to face the consequences.”

The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) has also raised its concern over the suggestion of the minister. M. Balachandran, leader of PUCL told IANS, “The government should contemplate lodging women prisoners, those with a good record in jails and political prisoners in open jails. However, the suggestion to lodge every prisoner in an open jail is not good for society and it will be dangerous.”

Sources in the DMK told IANS that the government is yet to formulate such a policy decision and that a decision would be taken only after eliciting views from all sections of the society.