Karnataka assembly passes Bill for setting up prison development board

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KEY STORY

  • The Assembly on Friday passed a Bill to set up a Prison Development Board to take up reforms in the state’s penitentiaries, following a serious debate on the current state-of-affairs.
  • The Karnataka Prison Development Board Bill envisages skill improvement and welfare of both prisoners and prison staff.
  • That apart, it also talks about development of modern prison industries, job-oriented skill programmes for prisoners including technical programmes specific to different trades, through the Board.
  • Piloting the Bill, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said the Board would enable prisoners to walk out of prison as “productive individuals who can fend for their families.”
  • Karnataka has 107 prisons of which nine are central prisons, 21 district prisons, 1 open prison, 29 taluk prisons (under the Prisons Department) and 47 taluk prisons (under Revenue Department). Their authorized accommodation is 14,080, but the number of inmates in 2019-20 was 14,423 and most of them were undertrials.
  • The Board will have a separate prison development fund, which will include money raised by manufacturing activities taken up by prisoners, funds generated by sale of property if any, donations from NGOs and through CSR initiatives, among other sources.
  • The Bill was passed amid scepticism that some MLAs expressed on the prison system having become corrupt with many illegal activities going unchecked.

CONCLUSION

  • Former Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar said jails had themselves become a hub of illegal activities, an opinion backed by several other legislators, including U T Khader, Ramalinga Reddy and K Annadani. “Instead of being a deterrent to crime, jail has become an attractive place for youth with all facilities. A culprit walks out with a bigger network that he’s gained from the prison,” he said.
  • Some legislators also pointed out that prisoners were unauthorisedly accessing mobile phones from the jail. Prisons have also turned dens for alcohol, drugs and other illegal activities, they alleged. “In Mangaluru, the jammer affects phones outside the prison, not inside,” Khader said.
  • Along with passing the Bill, the government must ensure a clean prison system, Reddy urged.

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