Chennai: Dressed smartly in blue striped shirts and dark blue pants, 30 men marched out of the Central Prison at Puzhal on Wednesday evening. While looking a bit self-conscious at being the cynosure of all eyes, they adjusted their caps and stood at attention. Usually sidelined and rejected by society, these men are remand prisoners who have sought to change their lives by getting gainful employment once they are out of prison.
As part of the prison’s Intensive Reformation Centre (IRC), they are the first batch of prisoners in the State to receive their appointment orders. The IRC is a programme started within the prison two months ago, under the supervision of Additional Director General of Police (prisons) S K Dogra. It seeks to identify the strength of prisoners and rehabilitate them based on those skills.
All 30 men have been employed by Exotic Vision Securitas and Facility (P) Ltd, a security agency based in Ambattur. Speaking to Express, managing director of the company A Suhail Sarfaraz said the main reason he came forward to support the cause was that tests had proven that most of these men were quite smart. “The average IQ of people is from 80 to 120. On testing, we found that several of them had IQ levels of even 125 or above. They also had very positive results on an MMPI test conducted to decipher how they would react under various circumstances. They really want to turn their lives around,” says Suhail.
Citing the example of Vishnu, a prisoner who has repeatedly been suspected, he says, “This man could not speak properly when he started the programme. Now he says he does not even want a salary, just the social status to show that he has truly changed.”
The men could go directly to the Exotic Vision office once their remand period is over. “If they are out on bail, they will be given the day off to attend court proceedings. Most of them are in on false cases and will be out soon; one person is joining us on Thursday, others will follow in the coming days,” says Suhail.
When asked if his clients would be receptive to employing ex-cons, Suhail says, “I am taking a risk, but I think it is worth it. My clients trust my judgment and I believe in these men. The commissioner of police has appointed one officer from Madhavaram police station to keep tabs on them, and they will have to report on a weekly basis. If they slip up, it will be noted.”
At an event organised to hand over the appointment orders, ADGP Dogra said, “We want to give them positive reinforcement. Being in prison need not mean the end of their lives; through the IRC we are giving them a new beginning. Rather than maintain it as a prison, we want it to be an ashram where they find their true worth.”
Minister for Commercial Taxes and Registration, Law, Courts and Prisons, C Ve Shanmugam, handed over the appointment orders to the men, who marched up and crisply saluted him. Shanmugam congratulated the wardens on the excellent example and training they had given the men. “I also thank our Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for the facilities provided here so that such a programme could be done. The same will be implemented in other State prisons soon,” he said.