03 Jun 2023  |   05:00am IST

When will prisons become reformatories?

Colvale Central Jail has been in the headlines lately and not altogether for good reasons.

This is Goa‘s main prison, and often, it stands out for its bad reputation thanks to the government‘s lethargic attitude. The government is expected to pay attention to this prison on priority, since incidents of unrest in the jail cells are on the rise. There were brawls and clashes happening in the prison for quite some time but on Tuesday, two notorious groups led by Tarzan Parsekar and Vijay Karbotkar were engaged in a brutal fight. Of course, this does raise a huge question mark with regard to the law and order in the jail. 

Such incidents tarnish the image of the prison‘s management but the people in power do not seem to be bothered. Finding prisoners in possession of mobile phones and drugs has become a regular thing. A few days ago, one of the prisoners had also escaped from this jail. These things are happening frequently which means that someone is colluding with the prisoners. In some cases guards and some of the members of the staff have been suspended and yet, these incidents keep happening. The government has on many occasions resolved to improve the situation. The Aguada Jail at one point had become infamous for such incidents. Since there were prisoners and the construction of the fort is an ancient one, the government had kept the prison as it was. Many stories of the mismanagement at Aguada escaped the walls of the jails just as some of the prisoners did. As it happens, one of the inmates even wrote his story and got it published in the newspapers. The people involved in this chaos were taken to task; however, the incidents did not stop. The Aguada jail was short of space considering the number of prisoners and the age of the fort made it difficult to create more facilities there. So finally, a new, well-equipped prison was built at Colvale. 

When the jail was built there were hardly any public settlements around. Today one would wonder how a jail was built in such a crowded space, such has been the rise in settlements around the jail‘s site. Some of the prisoners are serious offenders and may pose a threat to the people residing nearby. The ones who run away from the prison may very well harm the people residing in the area. Ideally, the prison should be at a standalone place, which it was when the government finalised the plateau at Colvale. However, the decision may have turned out to be wrong, from hindsight. 

The prison is built on 2,25,034 sq meters of land and the facilities are well thought of and so, if there are any problems then only the jail staff and the prisoners would be able to narrate them. It is indeed the government‘s duty to improve the conditions. Although the prisoners are criminals, they are kept there with the intention of reforming them. Hence, the prison should be looked at as a reformatory. The respective prison was inaugurated in 2015 when Laxmikant Parsekar was the chief minister of the state. He had stated that the prison would run as per the guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission. When the new jail at Colvale was made operational, the inmates from Mapusa police station, Aguada jail and sub jail at Sada were taken there. The jail possesses a 15-bed hospital, a dental unit, pathology lab and a pharmacy. The question is of improving the behaviour of the prisoners. As long as enough efforts are not put in to do that, the brawls, the fights and the disputes between the inmates will not stop. The recent incidents in no way suggest that there has been improvement in the behaviour of the prisoners. The common people till now have seen such incidents in films, as cinema dramatises the   ‘rivalry‘ amongst inmates. When such incidents are now happening for real, and in Goan jails, it is a matter of serious concern. 


Iddhar Udhar