Thiruvananthapuram: Imprisonment too won't hinder hardened gangsters from carrying out external jobs. Modern communication devices and pliable jail personnel let them seal deals or execute hitjobs. Some prisoners in the high-security Central Jail at Poojapura have been found to be misusing the permitted mobile phone smart cards for carrying out their operations in tandem with gangs outside.
Jail officials who intervened to check these activities faced stiff opposition. The accused in a major gold smuggling case challenged the jail authorities for making changes in the software to curb the misuse of smart cards. They threatened the jail authorities alleging that their phone calls were being recorded.
Jail DGP Rishiraj Singh has cautioned the superintendents about the misuse of smart cards saying that prisoners making calls outside approved numbers is a grave security lapse.
He asked them to ensure that no call diversion or conference calls are made from jails.
The special call facility
The smart card-embedded phone call system was set up by Erode-based company, Allan Group. Through the smart card system, phone calls can be made only on the numbers of three close relatives whose names are registered with the jail authorities.
The prisoners are allowed to call for Rs 250 every month. The company conveys the bill amount after a month. The amount is deducted from the labour wages earned by prisoners inside the jail.
The smart card system was first installed in Poojapura Central Jail four years ago. Subsequently, the facility was put in place in all central jails and district jails in the state.
Other instances of misuse
In one instance the Excise found that an undertrial in narcotics case who is lodged in the Poojapura central jail was controlling gangs through conference calls made to his wife.
Following the excise input many numbers were put under the scanner. Some undertrials after making a call on the number registered with the smart card, change to another number for call diversion. Conference calls are made through the same number or the new number.
With the misuse coming to light, jail superintendent urged the company to make changes in the software.
Staff shortage hits monitoring
At the Poojapura jail nine phones through which prisoners make calls using smart card have been installed in the block located near the watch tower. There's just one official to monitor the prisoners.
With nine persons making phone calls at the same time it is difficult to ascertain whether these are diversion calls or conference calls. Other blocks too have a smartphone each, but there is no jailor to monitor.
While other inmates are allowed to make twice a week, Sarith and Ramiz, the accused in the gold smuggling case, have been allowed to make calls on alternate days. They have also obtained a court verdict which directs the jail officials to stay at a distance from where they can't listen to their phone conversation.
The court verdict is applicable to 7 Cofeposa prisoners. Cofeposa accused were earlier not permitted to make phone calls.
However, with restrictions being imposed on visitors following Covid -19 spread, all prisoners including Cofeposa accused were allowed to make phone calls for Rs 400 every month.
No security check has been carried out in other jails yet to ascertain whether the smart card system is being misused by inmates.