UP prisoners making 3-times more phone calls in lockdown

A survey conducted across jails in Uttar Pradesh reveals that the number of phone calls made has increased at least three times in the lockdown period compared to the pre-lockdown days. This is because telephones are now the only window of communication for inmates lodged in the jails.

This is to be noted that due to the existing Covid-19 threat resulting in lockdown, visitations have been stopped in all jails across India. The only way of communicating and connecting with the outside world available to inmates is through telephones. After the ban on visitations, 69 jails of Uttar Pradesh have introduced the phone call facility for inmates, free of cost.

According to the survey, the number of phone calls made has increased at least three times. District Jails of Lucknow and Gautam Buddha Nagar have recorded the highest increase in number of phone calls per day; increasing from 7 to 325, and from 38 to 260 respectively. This included zero calls made by women in the pre-lockdown period in both these jails, and 25 and 5 respectively in the post-lockdown period.

The phone density in the jails ranges from 435 inmates per phone in Lucknow District Jail to 2,079 inmates per phone in Naini Central Jail. The survey included about 16,000 inmates of five jails of UP — Central Jail, Naini (Central Jail), Lucknow (District Jail) Agra (District Jail), Ghaziabad (District Jail) and Gautam Budhha Nagar (District Jail). All these five jails are representative jails of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India.

These are among the largest jails of UP, have women inmates and are overcrowded too. The survey included the entire prison population of these jails, a sum total of nearly 15,790 inmates. This survey was conducted by Vartika Nanda, the founder of Tinka Tinka Foundation, working towards prison reforms in India. The data has been provided by Uttar Pradesh Prison Department on request.

This is part of an ongoing research on the communication needs of inmates with special reference to Uttar Pradesh. Speaking to The Daily Guardian, Nanda said: “Institutionalisation of telephone calls in the Indian prisons is a step forward in augmenting communication amenities for inmates and is a part of ongoing prison reforms. From the days of communication-less jails, we have transitioned to communication-friendly jails helping reformation and healing.”

Another positive development is that women inmates who were unable to make calls in the pre-lockdown phase since all the telephones were installed in the male section, are now able to make use of this facility. The Uttar Pradesh prison department has installed new phones in common areas and this has come as a welcome change for the women inmates. While inmates are happy about this change, they feel that increase in the number of phone sets would bring more relief.

Due to inadequate number of telephone sets, inmates have to wait for their turn which may range from 3 to 10 days. At present, duration of each call is limited to 2-5 minutes. Evidently, the increase in phone sets would further address the communication needs of inmates better and reduce stress and anxiety in jails. One call a day certainly helps keep the tension away

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