Tihar turns into a fortress to crack down on phone use in jail

Installing three mobile network jammers, walkie-talkie sets for jail staff, installing 7,000 CCTV cameras, transferring 120 inmates to another ward or jail, procuring two body X-ray scanners — these are some of the steps taken by the Tihar jail administration to stop inmates from using phones.

Slamming the “sorry state of affairs” in Tihar jail, the Supreme Court last month said there was an “urgent need for prison reforms and enhanced prison management”. It also asked the Union Home Ministry to appraise it about follow-up action on recommendations made in this regard by the Delhi Police Commissioner.

The court was a hearing a matter in which it had ordered shifting of real estate firm Unitech Ltd’s promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra, who were lodged in Tihar Jail, to Arthur Road Jail and Taloja Central Jail following a report by the Enforcement Directorate that the duo were having a free run in Tihar and were even flouting the jail manual in connivance with officials.

Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel told The Indian Express they have installed three ‘dominant towers’ to curb mobile network coverage inside the jail complex. “The jammers are functional and now phones, including ours, are not working inside the jail complex. We are using WiFi connection in our headquarters and our staff use an intercom along with a walkie-talkie system to communicate. We are also in the process of procuring more walkie-talkies in the coming days,” he said.

The jail administration had also come under scanner after the Delhi Police, in their chargesheet filed against conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar, who is facing trial for allegedly duping Rs 200 crore from the wife of former Ranbaxy promoter Shivinder Singh, said he paid Rs 25 crore-Rs 30 crore a year to jail officials to get an entire barrack to himself.

“We have also identified 120 probable mobile users and trouble creators among inmates and transferred them to other jails to break the chain of their connivance with anyone. We are also transferring our jail staff regularly so they cannot develop any sort of collusion with anyone,” said the DG.

“We have also got approval from the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) to install two full body X-ray scanners,” he said.
Goel further said they also installed 7,000 cameras and made 18 control rooms to monitor inmate activities from inside jails. “We recently prevented a suicide bid after our staff saw one inmate trying to hang himself using a towel from the fan in his cell. Our staff immediately raised an alarm and rushed to his ward to stop him. He was shifted to DDU and was discharged after treatment,” he said.

The jail administration has 150 body-worn cameras and they have purchased 375 more to record any incidents of aggressive behaviour by inmates or inappropriate conduct by jail staff.

“We have also procured non-linear junction detectors (NLJD) and deep search metal detector (DSMD) to conduct deep searching in barracks and cells of inmates,” said Goel. An NLJD device can detect any electronic circuit even if it is switched off.

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