India has a prison system where the prisoners are not guarded by wardens, no bars, no, walls, and are allowed – even encouraged – to go out of the vicinity to the city to find work.
In a report by BBC, Sanganer Open Prison in Jaipur, in India’s western state, Rajasthan is one of the 30 corrective institutions to adopt the open prison system in the state.
The Sanganer Open Prison, open since the 1950s, is home to 450 prisoners who have served three-fourths of their sentences in close prisons. Some of these prisoners are convicted of murder, theft, and other crimes.
The revolution to make open prisons a norm in India is headed by Smita Chakraburtty, who made the case to India’s Supreme Court, which in turn, has asked states to look into setting up more places like Sanganer Open Prison.
Chakraburtty now serves as an honorary commissioner of prison in Rajasthan, India and was recently shortlisted for India’s Agami Prize for her work in the correctional system of the country.
“The criminal justice system addresses an incident… and doesn’t know what to do with an individual,” she said as she explained that her goal is to gain momentum. Four other Indian states opened similar open prison systems last year, and for her, this is just the beginning.
The life in the Sanganer Open Prison isn’t the typical life in a closed prison. Aside from not having guards and being allowed to go out, the only rule of imprisonment is for the inmates to report for a roll-call in the evening.
“At sundown, representatives of the prison’s elected governing body stand at the prison entrance. An inmate with a microphone begins taking attendance, calling out numbers from 1 to 450. Sometimes, he stops at a number and scolds a prisoner for leaving rubbish outside his or her house.” BBC wrote.
Aside from these simple rules that they have to avail, the life in Sanganer is not far from experience outside. Prisoners can still go out in their houses, buy motorcycles, smartphones, and televisions; they are not wearing a prison uniform and live in small numbered homes. The government has provided then small houses but just like people outside – the rest is up to them. The prison doesn’t give them any food, water or income. /apr