In Odisha, prisoners in two central jails can now see and talk to their visitors during visitation hours, as they speak over an intercom separated by two glass barriers. The facility was inaugurated on 2 October.
Santosh Upadhyay is the DG (Prisons) in Odisha.
What inspired this initiative?
There are about 20-30 prisons in Odisha pre-independence. At that time, prisoners were deliberately separated from relatives to avoid eye contact. But the new rules, which were implemented last year, have a provision to install two mesh meshes of glass or iron so that the visibility is up to 80 per cent… We have 15 intercoms in Bhubaneshwar jail and 15 in Berhampur for this facility.
Have you sought inputs from other states which have implemented it?
No, but soon there is an all India DG Prisons Conference, where we will discuss the best practices of prisons across the country.
How do you think this initiative helps prisoners?
Prisoners often suffer mentally and psychologically due to delay in trials, release etc. These problems increased during the pandemic, but we started an e-mulaqat. These physical meetings, where they can see their family members, advocates, etc., will help them feel better mentally and emotionally, and will also help in their overall health.
How has the reaction been?
It has been unprecedented. It gives a sense of satisfaction to the prisoners as well as the family members… there is a feel-good factor.
Are there additional security measures?
No additional security arrangements have been made. General security personnel will keep an eye. Also, we will ensure that only three people are allowed to meet an inmate at a time.