A project by the Telangana State Prisons Department is helping tackle the social stigma which prevents ex-inmates from accessing employment and housing after being released from prison by hiring them to run a local petrol station.
A petrol station in Hyderabad city is operating in India as the first of its kind, by exclusively hiring women ex-inmates released from a local prison.
As part of the Telangana State Prisons Department’s project ‘Maha Parivartan’, which seeks to provide jobs to prisoners with good conduct after their release from jails, as well as serving as a continuation of an individual’s reformation by the state, the newly opened gas station in Chanchalguda currently provides a job and earnings to 25 female ex-inmates and undertrials.
Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services, Telangana, VK Singh spoke of the initiative to Scroll.in, “the system shouldn’t work in a way to isolate them and their families even more. There needs to be some way to end the chain of events in the lives of these people. There should be a better nurturing environment for the future generations of these families and employment is one way to provide it” he said.
Stigma attached to individuals convicted of a crime in the past manifests itself within society in various ways, mainly in housing and employment. As such, many ex-inmates find it difficult to gain employment and housing after being released from prison, as many employees and landlords view them as a threat or a risk to take on, meaning an individual’s sentence rarely finishes once their time has been served. The petrol station is an attempt by the state to provide employment to as many women undertrials and former prisoners as possible, in an attempt to tackle this social concern.
During their time incarcerated in the local prison, inmates are offered an opportunity to learn new skills, such as sewing, driving, painting and managing finances, among others. Employment opportunities provided after release allow many of the ex-inmates to earn a living from the skills crafted while serving their sentences. In extra efforts to widen the opportunities for ex-inmates upon release, the prison partners with local businesses and industrialists to provide jobs across sectors.
The women currently employed at the petrol station are from various districts of Telangana, some living in rented accommodation provided by the Departments of Prisons. They are not hired with the intention of being shown the value of an honest life, something that they are fully aware of. The women are there to make a living and to resume life after incarceration. For these women, it’s a job, and a way to earn a living and pay their bills as everyone else. As such, the women work under the guidance and protection of Basheera Begum, the superintendent of Special Prison for Women in Chanchalguda, who ensures their safety while on the job and to protect them from customers who may have a problem with the women’s pasts. Officer Begum is supported by two other police constables at the station.
This is not the only initiative of its kind that has come from the Telangana Prisons Department. As reported by Huffington Post, it operates another 10 petrol bunks in different districts, employing male inmates and released prisoners collectively generating an annual turnover of over Rs 300 crore.