Tihar Jail Special: Experiments in Humanising the Inmates


Jails have had their own importance in every society.  In India, where jails provided the launch of many a stalwarts of the Indian freedom movement – from Bhagat Singh to Gandhi to Nehru to Savarkar – jails have been symbolic at times of the good and the bad.

Contrary to what most think of jails, it was Kiran Bedi, the vivacious and strong lady police officer to have transformed India’s largest jail – the Tihar Jail of Delhi.  Actually the entire complex is the largest in South Asia.

She brought humanizing changes – Walk arounds, enlisting rehab organizations to help with the drug problems (instead of indicting the inmates), festivals were observed (specially Raksha Bandhan), Group singing, cultural events, theater productions, Sports events, Vipassana Meditation were introduced.  The Tihar even had its own factory where the inmates produced branded snacks (TJ Specials).  Other skills were taught and the products and services used for revenue generation – such as shoe making, manure production, screen printing, tailoring, book binding, envelope making.

Probably, one of the greatest achievement of such reforms was that one inmate made it to the highest administrative services echelons in India – the Indian Administrative Services (IAS).  Ashok Rai was charged under rape case, where he was alleged to have raped his student (21 yrs).  The Delhi High Court Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Aruna Suresh set him free as he worked hard in jail to redeem himself, with the following judgment:

“Rai has redeemed himself in jail is evident from the fact that he took his civil service examinations and qualified for being appointed to the Indian Administrative Service. We are of the opinion that the sentence already suffered by him would meet the ends of justice.”

Now, Tihar Jail has made another first amongst jails around the world.  It has achieved 100% Job Placements!  43 inmates appeared for job interviews.  These people have 6-12 months left for their sentences and the jail is trying to rehabilitate them after their jail period so they can resume a normal life.

The packages would vary between Rs. 10-25000 per month.  The jobs are from Research Associate for a Chartered Accountancy firm to Executive Manager with Packing and Moving firm, to Data Entry operator, who was especially happier since he got a chance to work in Mumbai, his home town!

They have one request.  That their background in jail be kept a secret at their work.

If the society has the ability to forgive and rehabilitate those who lost their way or made a mistake in that unusual moment of indiscretion, or who have learnt a lesson – then that society has a chance to redeeem itself.  From Ashok Rai to the Data Entry operator, its the society that is being redeemed.

On another note, it is interesting that inmates of Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu have started a music band.   Called, Inmates Pipe Band – it was inaugurated by B.R. Sharma, principal secretary of the home ministry.  As a special gesture, the band members will be allowed to go out to perform.  Said the jail superintendent:

“The basic idea behind the creation of this band was to train inmates in a vocation as a rehabilitation measure and to create an atmosphere of inmate-civil society interaction by sending this band to civil functions outside the prison walls in future,” Rajni Shegal, jail superintendent, said at the inaugural function.

Its always important to help people redeem themselves. In their redemption is the redemption of the entire society!

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