The Prisons Department has initiated an inquiry into a video of inmates, led by a history sheeter fearlessly moving around the Colvale Central Jail building and openly threatening a Nigerian accused. The Department states that the videos that have gone viral were ‘apparently picturised few months back and circulated now’. The department further states that many of the prisoners who are seen in the video have been released on regular bail. It also states that a detailed inquiry has been initiated in the matter after the Department of Prisons took cognisance of the matter after a few newspapers (Herald was the only English paper to carry this report) expressed concern about the safety and security of the prisons.
A number of questions arise from this statement. Why is the Department of Prisons reacting only after the video went viral and was reported in the media? If this video was shot months ago, how come the Department of Prisons was not aware of it? Is it a common occurrence that prisoners strut around the jail premises while the prison guards turn a blind eye, for this not to have come to the knowledge of the authorities until the videos went viral and were reported in the media? Any inquiry in the incident should also find answers to these questions, as otherwise the probe will remain incomplete.
Cell phones are banned in the jail premises but without them, this video would not have been shot nor circulated. In a raid in the past, 67 cell phones had been confiscated in the jail. But, cell phones are not the only banned item that finds its way into the jail premises. Two years ago there was a bhang party in the jail, and a prisoner who was under trial had allegedly smuggled the cannabis drink into the jail premises. At that time too the party might have gone unnoticed had not a few prisoners and staff not fallen ill and had to be rushed to hospital after consuming the drink. This, therefore, is not the first time that Colvale jail has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. A few prison staff had been suspended for the bhang party. But then, neither the staff nor the inmates appear to have learnt any lessons from past experience.
The latest incident demands that there be a major clean-up of the Colvale jail. Since the inauguration of the jail in 2015 there have been gangster fights and killings and even brawls among the staff. Ashpaq Bengre was murdered in the Colvale jail by another inmate. A jail guard was suspended after he, suspected to be under the influence of liquor at that time, allegedly got into a fight with an IRB personnel at the main gate. Then there was the bhang party and now this video that has gone viral. It is evident that security at the jail is lax, that there are close ties between the staff and the inmates of the jail, but this cannot continue.
The Colvale jail has been billed as a correctional facility, but apparently there is no correction that is taking place here. The jail is meant to be a place where prisoners spend time reforming themselves, instead the Colvale jail, five years since its inception, is beginning to gain notoriety. It is time that the Prisons Department take immediate and stern action against the erring staff and the inmates involved in illegal or unsavoury activities. We really do not need to hear of more such incidents of Colvale jail. If the department does not act tough now, the situation will only deteriorate further, making it more difficult to change later.