BENGALURU: He has seen crime from very close quarters and spent the best years of his life looking after prisoners in judicial custody; from hardened criminals,including serial killers, rapists and terrorists to high profile political prisoners.
On the verge of retirement after 32 years of service in the Prison Department, the Additional Inspector General of Prisons V.S. Raja said that poverty is the root cause of crime and not all criminals need to be incarcerated for the rest of their lives in prison for a crime they may have committed on the spur of the moment.
“I don't condone crime and believe in capital punishment, but not all convicts deserve to be incarcerated for the rest of their lives for a crime they may have committed on the spur of the moment. Most often murder convicts, especially from rural areas commit a crime on the spur of the moment, to avenge a wrong done to them or their family members. It could be because of a long standing land dispute or their honour. The profile of a life convict from a village is very different from that of a lifer from urban areas. While majority of the convicts from villages are repentant, get reformed inside the prison and are given responsibilities by the jail staff; lifers from the cities are hardened criminals with hardly any remorse or hope of correction,” Raja said.
On several occasions he has been threatened by rowdy sheeters, gangsters and terrorists inside the prison. As a probationer in mid 1980s. he was threatened by the notorious M.P. Jayaraj, who was ruling Bengaluru’s underworld from inside the Central Prison. “I was a young probationer and idealistic. Gradually threats from the underworld dons, who were in judicial custody at the Central Prison, became a routine affair. From Jayaraj to Market Raja, Krishnaji Rao, Kotwal Ramchandra, Gedda Nagaraj gang and Koli Fayaz, I was threatened by all of them. Serial killer Charles Sobhraj was kept in judicial custody at Bengaluru prison for a short while in 1984-’85 after he was transferred from Belgaum Central Prison,” Raja said.
Regarding the prison reforms he said that the prisons have over the years become reform and correctional institutions, but shortage of staff and lack of escort services to take prisoners to the courts during the trial remains a problem. “This delays their trial. I remember a rowdy sheeter had slashed his body with a blade, which he had stolen from the prison barber. He was depressed because we couldn't provide him with police escort to take him to the court. We had to rush him to the hospital to save his life, recounted the officer, who has been twice decorated with the President's medal for meritorious and distinguished service.