This Jail is different

Tihar dispels notions about prison, joins Facebook to reach a new - social media - milestone


Deevakar Anand | March 22, 2011

DG (prisons) at Tihar,  Neeraj Kumar
DG (prisons) at Tihar, Neeraj Kumar

What happens inside a jail has traditionally always been a taboo. There is severe sense of beliefs, some of them even uncanny, about jails. Prisoners living in extreme inhuman conditions with no freedom to - forget anything else - even think freely is what we know as the reality. Amidst this, for a jail administration to dare think of being in full public glare 24x7, serving itself on the platter for the scrutiny by all and sundry deserves a special mentioning.

Delhi's Tihar jail has moved a substantial distance doing exactly that. They recently came on Facebook with an idea to reach out to the people as also allowing them to reach back to the jail administration with their grievances and complaints. And so far, as director general (Prisons) at Tihar, Neeraj Kumar says, the response has been overwhelming.

Hundreds of men and women have joined the page ‘Central Jail Tihar’ and have been posting their perspectives there. Tihar's law officer, Sunil Gupta supports the idea and adds that despite having a website, they thought of joining the Facebook as the former served only as the one way communication but the latter platform gave way to more dynamism as people could write back , raise issues and Tihar would respond to them.

He says their Facebook page is updated daily unlike the website. "Thousands of visitors turn up to meet their kith and kin lodged in jail and to receive those who are freed. And if anyone of them has a grievance or suggestion, they can seek to get it redressed through our Facebook page, assures Gupta.

But does the idea to come on the social networking site not place greater accountability on Tihar and make it incumbent to the curiosities and anxieties of people on the social network, a situation government institutions, and especially bureaucracy does not really like to get into?
In what gives a break from such caged notions about them, DG Kumar tells us there are so many good things happening in the precincts of Tihar and people must know about them. "Eighty percent of inmates are victims of circumstances. They are not hardcore criminals. So, the idea is to ensure that when they are released, they don't get back to crime again," he says. No wonder, Tihar conducts a gamut of good practices among the prisoners, as we found out.

Resorting to Facebook doesn't ,therefore, have to do just with having a platform for 'People-Tihar' interface; it is also to bring out before the world a whole lot of 'one of its kind' activities carried out inside the jail.

On a visit to Tihar, we found specially done petition boxes at various points across the premises in which the inmates can drop in their issues which, Kumar claims is redressed every Friday. Tihar also organized campus placements for prisoners recently and 43 of them who are to be released soon were hired by companies like Vedanta foundation, Agarwal packers and movers, Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan and Relaxo footwear. Inmates can pursue education through IGNOU. There is a creche for kids of female infants, vocational training institute and panic healing course to list a few. Thanks to Facebook, more and more people are constantly ,not only updated on all such good work , they also get to give their feedback.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Crime is the outcome of a diseased mind and jail must have the environment of a hospital for its treatment and care." Tihar seems to follow the path and as DG Kumar puts it, "Everything needs to come out in public so that the wrong notions about jail are dispelled and hence, the use of social media."



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