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Himachal cool… even if it is about prisons

Archana Phull | Shimla |

The hill state of Himachal Pradesh is cool, even when it comes to prisons.
The jails in the state are badly understaffed, running out of capacity and lack proper surveillance. 
There are 14 jails in the state, including two model jails in Kanda near Shimla and Nahan in Sirmaur. HP has one open air jail in Bilaspur.
Sources said as per Government of India norms, the jails should have a total staff  strength of 1500, including 1200 watch and ward staff. Against this, the Himachal Pradesh has a sanctioned staff strength of just 581 for managing the prisons and out of this more than 20 percent posts continue to remain vacant. 
The total number of jail inmates in Himachal is 2350, including 77 women, whereas the capacity of the prisons is 1878.
The worst scenario is of surveillance system for jails in Himachal. Sources said the first ever security audit was conducted for HP jails last year by the prisons department. It was brought to the notice of the state government that the HP jails did not have wireless sets, access control like door frame metal detectors, hand held metal detectors and lacked in even generators. The HP jails have few CCTV cameras which nowhere meet the surveillance requirement. The smaller jails don’t have
CCTV cameras at all.
Sources said after the security audit of jails, the prisons high ups had urged the state government for 207 additional posts in jail department and overall restructuring. But the demand has not been met so far.
“Our jails don’t meet the standards set by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The jail staff works over time , almost 24×7. The  shortage of man power and the poor surveillance system makes the HP jails vulnerable. It is a continuity security risk,” said a high up in prisons department.
He added that though the problem of terrorism was not there in Himachal and most of the convicts in HP are of other crimes, the lack of surveillance equipment has led to escape by some inmates now and then.
In many cases, however, they abscond while being taken out for medical examination or other purposes in Himachal. The possibility of escape from the jails is always there.
Director General of Police, Prisons in Himachal Pradesh, Somesh Goel said, “We have taken up all the issues with the state government and hope they are addressed one by one.”
He told The Statesman that the prisons department had  bought wireless sets worth Rs.15 lakh for jails and was waiting for the issuance of license from central authority. “We have sent a proposal of Rs 2.5 Crore to the government for CCTV cameras for all the jails.”
Goel, who has strengthened the measures aimed at self employment of prisoners in jails with marketing avenues, also revealed that two more jails in Nalagarh in Solan district and Rampur Bushehr in Shimla district were being constructed to take care of capacity issues.
It may be mentioned that after the Union Government stopped focus on modernisation plans for police in general from 2009-10, the work modernisation of prisons has suffered the most.