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Lawyers push jail to the brink

Behrampore, Dec. 20: The authorities at the central jail here are in a tizzy as the number of inmates today exceeded capacity due to the statewide strike by lawyers.

The jail, which became the first in the state to have more prisoners than it can hold, has prompted the district administration to issue verbal instructions to police to abstain from making excessive arrests.

The court of the Jangipur sub-divisional judicial magistrate, which had been functioning in fits and starts despite the ceasework by lawyers, has been rendered “out of service” in the past four days.

More than 32 people are being detained in lock-ups at various police stations in the sub-division in the absence of the lawyers.

“The central jail can hold up to 2,000 prisoners. Today, the count is 2,081. Usually, there are around 1,200 inmates on an average,” said district magistrate Manoj Panth. He added that the manpower available is inadequate to handle such a large number of prisoners.

District superintendent of police Virendra expressed concern. “Where will we keep the criminals we pick up'” he asked. He conceded that as a result of the “extraordinary situation” the police were “restrained” in making arrests.

“We are trying to get around this by releasing arrested persons from the police station on personal bonds. In Jangipur, we have not been able to produce anyone in court over the past four days,” the district police chief said.

Central jail superintendent Dulal Chandra Saha refused to divulge details on the situation inside but sources said tension was brewing.

There could be a riot inside the prison if things continue to be as they are, they said. “Eighteen wards have been packed with 2,100 inmates, and, to say the least, they are congested.”

The sources added that distributing food had become a problem and the timings of meals and other activities had gone haywire.

“All this is making many among the inmates angry and trouble can spark off any moment,” they said.

“Many of the inmates are frustrated at not being able to secure bail and have become very irritable, they grumble and abuse the lawyers for pushing them into their present plight,” sources inside the central jail said.

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