The authorities of Dum Dum, Presidency and Alipore Central jails have approached the government for more personnel, blaming manpower crunch for smuggling in of phones and SIM cards and other security breaches in the facilities.
According to the correctional administration department’s records, the sanctioned staff strength in the jails is 884 but they have only 547 employees following a government freeze on recruitment.
Sources said the superintendents of the three jails wrote several times to the authorities concerned stating that manpower shortage was providing inmates a chance to escape.
“Lack of manpower has always been a problem but the situation now is the worst in a long time. We urgently need more personnel to handle the 6,500-plus convicts and under-trials in the three jails,” said an official in the department of correctional administration.
The inmates of the three jails include the 2002 American Center attack mastermind Aftab Ansari, gangsters like Gabbar and Gudda and senior Maoists leaders.
The state government has given the green light for the recruitment of 150 personnel but jail officials feel that it would be inadequate.
Recruitment of jail employees usually takes at least a year. “Warders have to be recruited through a examination conducted by the public service commission. The notification for the examination is yet to be issued. The selected candidates are sent for training. The process will take more than 18 months,” said a jail official.
Recruitment of jail employees stopped during the Left Front regime, he added. “The vacant posts should be filled up immediately but the government is only recruiting for half the posts because of a funds crunch,” he said.
The authorities reviewed security measures in the three jails after inmates Md. Sabuj and Md. Ali Mandal managed to flee Presidency jail on August 29 by scaling its wall. The probe blamed lack of surveillance for the jailbreak.
“The two got to the rooftop of an abandoned building on the jail premises and climbed up a wall that was close to it. They were not spotted because there was no one at the nearby watchtower because of lack of manpower,” said an officer at Presidency jail. “The eight watch towers on our premises cannot be manned properly. We can deploy guards on five towers at a time. The rest are unmanned,” added the officer.
Similarly, at Alipore Central jail, two watchtowers are left unmanned.
“We need to deploy guards outside the cells of dreaded criminals round-the-clock. Because of shortage of manpower, we cannot engage enough people to guard the jails’ walls,” said an official at Writers’.
Some officers said corruption is as much a security threat in jail as lack of surveillance. “Some inmates enjoy all the facilities and have access to all articles banned inside jails. They run extortion rackets with the help of their mobile phones sitting in their cells,” said an official.
Over the past six months, almost 350 cellphones have been seized in the jails.