Odisha Special Prison implements prisoner reformation skills program focusing mental health of inmates

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With an increase in the number of mental health concerns among prisoners, Odisha jail officials implemented the prisoner reformation skills programme and engaged mental health professionals. In Odisha, there are around 20 thousand prisoners housed in 87 facilities with the aim of preventing depression, acquiring abilities for their livelihoods, and keeping away from crime.

As a part of the prison reform initiatives, the jails in Odisha are focusing on the mental health of the inmates to tackle growing anxiety and depression. The state has appointed 40 mental health professionals for the purpose. “Prison is a place where the inmates face anxiety and depression. We face a lot of mental health issues in prison. Odisha is the first state in India where we have hired 40 mental health professionals to tackle the problem. We are hopeful that through this the issue of anxiety and depression can be tackled which will also reduce the cases of inmate suicides,” Manoj Kumar Chhabra, DG of prisons & DCS, Odisha told ANI.

He further said that the mental health initiative is also going on for the staff working in the prison. “The staff working in the prison are also subjected to a lot of stress. The professionals are also training them how to handle the stress and work in the prison environment,” he added.

Mental health is among the slew of measures undertaken by the Directorate of Prisons and Correctional Services in Odisha. The authorities have introduced several skilled sessions for the inmates. The sessions are being conducted in collaboration with Amulya Jeevan Foundation. “We started as a pilot project inside the Special Jail, Bhubaneswar and named ‘Mukta Vihangam’. Where we have a community radio station called Azaad Vaani, more than 6000 songs, library-cum-skill development room well-stocked with 1900 books and a theatre -music-dance -art room for the inmates. The inmates of the prison have a lot of free time. The confined spaces often result in depression. Now, they are getting a chance to learn here. They have a chance to earn livelihood and reintegrate into the society,” Project Head Sweta Kanungo said.

Women prisoners are also engaged in hair and beauty skill training. These programmes are in addition to other ongoing programmes at the prison. “Besides old skills like clothes making, plumbing, farming etc., we realized that the young prisoners are more interested in skills like radio jockey, beauty salon, horticulture, arts, computer and mobile repairing. So, we have started several of these programs inside the prison,” Dr Chhabra added.

Professional Radio Jockeys have been roped in to train the inmates. The under-trial prisoners have also welcomed the move. One of the inmates from Jaipur, Rajasthan RJ Abhishek who is staying in special jail for almost 5 years sharing his thoughts about jail reforms and skills told ANI, “Generally we heard the negative picture of jail on TV or cinema, where the prisons do such work as digging ditches and breaking up rocks, but it’s totally different I saw four to five jails in other states but in Bhubaneswar no feelings of jail for me it’s like a boys hostel. According to time and technology here you can see the changes of jail.”

He further said that there was a perception of prisoners that they were unskilled labourers. “However, with the advancement of technology, they are now being trained in fisheries, radio jockey, art classes, computer, etc,” RJ Abhishek added. Another inmate, RJ Niranjan, Azad Vaani Radio said that the stress level of inmates has come down as they present a lot of motivational stories.

“There is a positive change happening in our lives. We are now confident of walking out and working as voice-over artists and RJs. The perception of prison was that it was a punishment. But now we know that it is a reformation centre. We can reflect on ourselves, and the crimes we have committed and lead a better life,” said RJ Niranjan said. Nowadays 20 inmates of Bhubaneswar Special Jail are trained as Radio Jockeys.

On August 15, a special Radio program will be aired, which is prepared by the prisoners of this jail, informed the officials. (ANI)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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