Mouse magic - Maharashtra’s prison inmates becoming computer-savvy (With Images)

February 14th, 2009 - 11:42 am ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Feb 14 (IANS) The mouse is proving mightier than the sword for inmates in various Maharashtra jails.

Computer education is the prisoners’ new mantra thanks to a unique rehabilitation programme initiated by Pratham Infotech Foundation (PIF), a Mumbai-based NGO.

Having been successfully launched in three jails, the programme was launched in a fourth prison, the Sawantwadi Jail, Friday.

“We have seen that many of the prisoners are not habitual or hardcore criminals. Many commit big or small crimes in a fit of rage or temporary emotions, and they get jailed for prolonged periods as undertrials or convicts,” said Jayendra Jadhav, all-India jail programme coordinator for PIF.

Just over a year ago, PIF discussed with the Maharashtra prison authorities ways and means to equip the prisoners with skills that could get them employment or enable them to become entrepreneurs.

“Many prisoners come out of jail feeling completely lost, without sympathisers or supporters, with a lifelong stigma on their reputation that prevents them from getting any gainful work. The hardcore criminals manage to rehabilitate themselves in their old trades, but the casual criminal is shunned by his family and society at large,” Jadhav said.

A pilot computer education project was launched among the 150 inmates in Ratnagiri Jail Feb 23 last year which proved immensely popular with the prisoners and the jail authorities.

PIF launched the second project Oct 2 last year in Taloja Jail. This year the programme was launched in Alibaug Jail in Raigad district Jan 26 for 115 inmates. After Sawantwadi Jail, it will be taken up at Aguada Jail in Goa next month.

Emboldened by the successes, PIF has sought the state government’s permission to cover 15 jails this year. “We plan to cover all the 38 big and small jails in the state within the next couple of years,” Jadhav said.

PIF designed a special module comprising MS Office and basic written and spoken English for illiterate prisoners. Each module is spread over a two-hour daily programme for six days and is completed in batches, each batch taking at least three months.

At the end of the programme, PIF awards a course completion certificate to the inmates.

S.H. Mistry, a prisoner released from Ratnagiri Jail last month after completing a 12-year sentence in a narcotics case, was so impressed by the course that he requested to be taught certain advanced programmes.

“Though I am a graduate, I was computer illiterate. Computers had spread in India when I was in jail. It would have been a new and strange world for me. Apart from the regular course module, I learnt PhotoShop, Image-Maker and Movie-Maker,” a proud Mistry, 50, told IANS.

Mistry has started a small office in his home in Ahmedabad, and is steadily building up a regular clientele.

“I make a few thousand rupees each month now. But business is picking up and by April my income should cross Rs.25,000 a month,” Mistry said.

His young daughter, who was a small girl when he was jailed, has completed a professional computer course and helps her father in the business.

According to Alibaug Jail Superintendent I.S. Pawar, initially the prisoners were sceptical about learning computers, but as the programme started, many evinced keen interest.

“Now, all the prisoners, including the undertrials, have voluntarily enrolled for the course and they attend it according to the time-table set by the organisers,” Pawar said.

Jadhav said on an average, the course costs Rs.3,000 per head, which includes the cost of the hardware, networking, teachers and the support staff engaged in the project in different jails.

PIF installed five computers in Alibaug Jail and 10 in Taloja Jail.

“Our aim is to let each prisoner get an hour’s hands-on training on a PC daily so that they master the course. For the slow-learners, we spend more time as required,” Jadhav said.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at

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