Massive jail in India puts inmates to work for a profit
Published Sunday, July 1, 2012 9:48PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 3, 2012 7:58AM EDT
The Indian prison system has found a way to rehabilitate criminals, while at the same time offer some tasty treats to the public, and provide financial relief for crime victims.
The Tihar Jail is the biggest prison complex in South Asia with 12,000 inmates near New Delhi, but it’s also a thriving manufacturer of products ranging from food to footwear.
The prison factory is unique and profitable. It generated $3 million in revenue last year, although corrections officials say the real payoff is a reformed convict who can find a job when released.
“So that he doesn't engage in the same sort of activities as before they came to the jail,” deputy superintendent Pradeep Sharma told CTV News in a recent interview.
One of the prison’s operations is known as TJ’s Bakery, the initials standing of course for the prison and not some baker happily singing away in the kitchen kneading a lump of dough.
The bakery churns out muffins, biscuits and bread that are some of the country’s most popular and its workers never show up late for work.
“I am learning and it passes the time,” said Ashwini, who is serving a life sentence for murder.
The Indian prison system didn’t always work this way.
At Tihar, all criminals receive equal treatment, no perks or special treatment for the rich or powerful, locked away for their crimes.
The prison is also bloated with inmates, holding twice its official capacity. Many prisoners are awaiting trial in a backed-up court system.
But at the jail’s factories, prisoners are paid up to $80 a month for their work, with one-quarter of their paycheque going toward a fund for victims.
Inmates build furniture, sew uniforms and make eco-friendly paper and office supplies, ironically for the courts and police.
“Before we used to lie around,” said another inmate, Manbir. “Now I send money to my family.”
TJ's products are sold at select stores and online and it’s recruiting more distributors so that inmates can reach the world outside with good products and hopefully lead a better life when they’re released.
With a report from CTV’s Janis Mackey Frayer