The district sub jail at Puthiyara, located in the heart of the city, is literally sitting on a powder keg. The jail officials anticipate a violent jailbreak not witnessed in recent times in the State. Over crowding of prisoners, acute shortage of staff, lack of modern facilities, non-cooperation of the police in escorting prisoners and interference of politicians have been cited as reasons for this predicament.
Senior jail officials say that the post of 20 wardens, out of a total 34, have remained unfilled for a long time. A few wardens recruited on temporary basis are not trained to cope with the ambience inside a jail. Besides, they might indulge in malpractices ultimately posing a big security problem. Recently, two such recruits were sacked for allegedly distributing liquor and drugs to inmates.
Although the jail has a capacity for only 255 detainees, it holds 475 prisoners, who are jam-packed in several blocks each having 25 to 30 prisoners. Some times their number crosses 575.
Strangely, the staff strength is below 50, which includes a superintendent, a deputy jailor, three assistant jailors and eight head wardens. The post of the welfare officer has been lying vacant for several months. These figures at the district jail are pathetic when compared to that of the Viyyur Central Prison in Thrissur district where there are 105 wardens for 400 to 450 inmates.
One of the biggest problems faced by the officials here is the security of the 137 accused in the Marad case in which nine persons were massacred on May 2, 2003. Except on Sundays and other holidays these undetrials have to be transported from the jail to the special court at Eranhipalam. Around 250 police personnel, mostly from the Armed Reserved Police camp led by an officer in the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), escort the accused to and from the court.
Jail officials say that they would be facing a precarious situation in the near future with the trial in the case reaching the final stages.
They have already warned the authorities in the State capital about the situation.
Over crowding of under trials is the biggest problem.
Nearly 424 under trials are housed in the jail at present.
A few of them are migrants from neighbouring States, including Tamil Nadu.
Some of them have been under trials for over two years at a time when the district jail usually accommodates convicts serving sentences for a period up to six months.
Non-cooperation of the police in escorting the under trials to courts and getting them released is a major hindrance for officials in combating the troubled situation in the jail. Local police are not able to take up escort assignments since they are occupied with other activities, including law and order and special duties at Marad.
Hindu, Jan 14, 2006