Saturday, August 2, 2014
It is now over 5 years since the Madras Central Jail was demolished, making way for the new block of the Madras Medical College there. For the last few years of its existence, the Jail at Park Town had no inmates, all of them having been moved to the sprawling campus of the new, model prison complex at Puzhal. The earlier Central Jail in Chennai had about 11 acres of space; the suburban train track ran right next to it. The noise of traffic would not have been very far, either.
The Puzhal complex is far bigger. For starters, it is not one prison, but three. The complex houses the Chennai Central Prisons I and II, each with a capacity of 1250 inmates. Then there is the Special Prison for Women, which can hold 500 women prisoners. All these are spread out over an area of 212 acres, almost in the middle of nowhere. At least, when the prison started functioning, there were not many other establishment on that stretch of the NH5, about 25km out of Chennai.
Even now, there are not too many reasons to stop at Puzhal. The locality has a population of about 30,000, most of who seem to be living just across the highway from the prison gate. From the highway, the entrance looks quite neat, with arches above the gate not quite indicating what lies within. The prisoners here surely get a greater sense of loneliness than in the crowded Chennai facility earlier!