Burail Jail or Model Jail, situated in Chandigarh, currently houses between 400 to 450 convicts. Lately, the prison has been in the news for running initiatives to bring a positive change in the inmates, put their potential to use and contribute to the society.
The Better India spoke to Deepak Kumar, Welfare Officer, Model Jail, to understand these initiatives better.
1. Bio Gas
The Burail Jail has set-up two biogas plants in the outskirts of the jail to make cooking eco-friendly. This, in turn, has helped save almost 45 per cent of their regular fuel expenditure. The project was inaugurated on Mahatma Gandhi’s 151st birth anniversary. The plants, set up at a cost of Rs 18 lakhs, will use as fuel, two trolleys of cow dung and four to five quintals of household waste collected dailyfrom the houses of jail authorities and the jail kitchen.
Virat, Joint IG Prison, said, “Biogas has zero net greenhouse emissions and the organic matter used in biogas plants is typically a waste product. By using biogas, we will be able to reduce the amount of food waste and other organic materials being sent to landfill.”
In a first, an exclusive outlet called Srijan located at Sector 22 in Chandigarh, stocks products like furniture and food products that the jail inmates make. “One of our fast selling products are replicas of the original Le Corbusier designed furniture. They attract many people to the showroom as well,” informs Deepak.
You can also purchase wooden chairs, baby chairs, cabinets, and candles made by the jail inmates from the Burail Jail’s official website. “We have various departments that work on the furniture; designing, carpentry, painting, polishing, and welding. On an average, an inmate is able to complete one chair a day,” shares Deepak.
He also mentioned how they supply many of their products to schools across Chandigarh.
The regular barracks the Burail jail inmates live in have now been replaced with kuteers (cottages). Each of these kuteers are named after freedom fighters, brave women, and those whose stories will inspire the inmates.
According to this report, O P Mishra, IG (Prisons), Burail Jail, says, “Burail jail will be the first in the country which will not have barracks for the inmates. The inmates will be in kuteer now. The idea has been conceived to give a positive look to the jail, and remove the negativity regarding the jail cells. There are a total of 17 barracks in Burail jail — 16 male and one female barrack.”
Some of the names that have been given to the kuteers include – Annie Besant, Neerja Bhanot, Rani Lakshmibai, Guru Nanak Dev, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Jawahar lal Nehru.
4. Bank accounts
Earlier this year, the convicts at the Burail Jail were given bank accounts. This will enable the jail authorities to directly transfer the wages of the inmates to their bank accounts. As of now, convicts receive cheques for their wages. The bank account has the same address as mentioned in Aadhaar or any other official document that the convict might have.
According to this report, the IG of the jail said, “The incident of an inmate who stole a cheque from the jail office and transferred money to his account prompted us to take the decision towards streamlining the process of paying the wages to the convicts.”
5. No plastic
Since 2 October 2019, the jail authorities have barred the use of single-use plastic within the premise. “We have started converting old clothes and bedsheets into cloth bags, this has reduced our plastic bag dependency,” says Deepak.
When asked what they serve food in, he says, “We have shifted to steel plates, tumblers and spoons from plastic utensils.”
The word jail does not evoke positive images. Our brain associates jails with stench-clogged corridors and containment cells filled with convicts and under trial prisoners. In our country, most jails would check these boxes. However, the initiatives of Burail jail are steps in the right direction that others should learn from.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)