Tihar inmates get smarter

Tihar inmates get smarter

Prisoners use smart cards instead of coupons to buy food, services

Tihar jail has taken a step towards transparency in its functioning. The jail authorities have introduced smart cards for prisoners to buy food and other items.

“This is the first such initiative at any prison in the country. Earlier, the inmates were given coupons of various denominations to use on the jail premises. We introduced the smart cards on January 18 and replaced the coupon system in sub-jail No. 1,” deputy inspector general (tihar jail) R N Sharma told Deccan Herald.

Every inmate in the jail has a ‘prisoner property account’. It is like a bank account and it is managed by jail authorities.

Family members of the inmates deposit money into the prisoners’ accounts at the jail’s public relations office. At each meeting with family members, a maximum of Rs 750 is allowed to be deposited. Family members are allowed to meet the inmates twice a week — eight meetings per month.

“This allows a prisoner to have a maximum of Rs 6,000 in the account,” said the official. Now, since the coupon system is a thing of the past, the smart card system is likely to bring about transparency in the jail’s functioning.

“This is an advanced technology. It is also more flexible than anything that was available at the jail till now,” said Sharma. “A prisoner with a smart card can buy things and avail services like tailoring and laundry, just by swiping the card in a hand-held reader. There is no scope for mismanagement in this process,” added Sharma.

The data will be stored at a main server. In case of loss of card, a prisoner can get a new one within minutes. “The inmates frequently lose coupons. Sometimes, the coupons are torn as they remain in pockets while clothes are being washed. No such problems will come up now,” said Sharma.
Family members of the inmates can recharge the cards at the public relations office by depositing cash.

“Family members can deposit the maximum limit of Rs 6,000 at one time, unlike earlier when they had to buy coupons of Rs 750 each on every visit. They need not visit the jail eight times to deposit up to the maximum limit,” said Sharma.

Every smart card and hand-held readers will have a profile of the inmate with a photo.

“This will avoid misuse if an inmate loses the card. The transactions will make every penny count as well,” added Sharma. The smart cards will be introduced at the rest of the nine sub-jails within a few months. “There are 20,036 inmates at the rest of the sub-jails. So far, 1,583 prisoners at sub-jail No. 1 are using smart cards,” said Sharma. The inmates, before leaving jail, can deposit the cards and can collect the balance left, if any.