Saturday, June 7, 2014

From bars to bazaars

Sometime since December last year, the gates at Puzhal Central Prison have seen a spike in the number of people milling around there. No, there was no rise in crime (or conviction) rates; it was just that a new store had opened inside the prison, with a counter to the outside world as well. That was the first outlet of the "Freedom Prison Bazaar". In the past six months, two other outlets have opened up, one at the CMDA Office in Egmore and this one, the newest, just ahead of the Saidapet Metropolitan Magistrates' Courts

This one came up three months ago and it stocks the entire range of 'Prison Products'. Tamil Nadu has 9 central prisons, three of which are in Chennai - Puzhal 1 and 2  and the Women's Prison, all in the Puzhal Campus. From soap making to music, there is a lot on offer for them to study. And recently, investments have been made in setting up a bakery (Puzhal), power looms (Coimbatore) and handmade paper units (all prisons). These are in addition to the facilities already available for shoemaking (Vellore), garments (Coimbatore) and soaps and detergents (Trichy) 

Traditionally, these products were used inside the prisons and probably within the Prison Department itself. Since last year, they have been made available to the public and the response seems to have been good enough for the department to consider expansion into the High Court and DMS complexes in the next few months. The profits from these stores would be distributed as a fifth each to the prisoners who worked to produce these, to the Prison Staff Welfare Fund and to the Government Account. The remaining 40% would be ploughed back to the 'business' through the Tamil Nadu Prison Department Manufacture of Goods Fund. So go ahead, give a helping hand to rehabilitate the prisoners!

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