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Inmates for hire at South Asia's biggest jail

Housing over 13,000 convicts, Tihar Jail in New Delhi is South Asia's largest prison. It recently hit the news not because of crime but because of an unusual recruitment session at which banks and firms hired 40 inmates.

Amit Kumar Jha has been hired as a marketing executive

Amit Kumar Jha has been hired as a marketing executive

It was just like a campus placement session. Eight private companies interviewed candidates over a period of two days. Later, attractive pay packages were offered and jobs promised.

But this was a recruitment session with a twist - it did not take place at a university but at the high-security Tihar Jail in India’s capital New Delhi.

The event was part of efforts by the prison administration to keep the thousands of prisoners busy, provide them with new skills and keep them connected with the outside world for when their jail terms are over.

Sandeep Bhatnagar (l) is a bank robber who has benefited from M K Diwedi's (r) recruitment scheme

Sandeep Bhatnagar (l) is a bank robber who has benefited from M K Diwedi's (r) recruitment scheme

And since the first recruitment drive of this kind was such a success, they have already begun preparations for another round. 

Bank robber offered two jobs 

The mood is almost festive in Jail No 3. Sandeep Bhatnagar is celebrating his good news by playing table tennis - the 40-year-old who has been in jail for five years is one of the lucky ones.

"I was interviewed for three or four jobs and I got two of them. It’s nice to have something in hand when you get out of this place. It is good to have something positive for the future and the family."

He is currently facing trial for armed bank robbery in May 2006 and is accused of dressing up as a "human bomb."

A few blocks away, Amit Kumar Jha, a graduate, has been given a job as a marketing executive by a packaging firm. He was convicted for seven years on charges of kidnapping. He hopes to lead a decent life when he is released.

"It makes no sense to daydream in jail because nothing ever works out. When I heard about the campus interviews, I simply could not believe it. My thinking changed. I was told only those with good conduct could qualify. The authorities don’t want anyone who will turn to crime again." 

From illiteracy to multiple degrees 

Many of the inmates who applied for jobs have completed their education in jail - some could not read or write before and now they have multiple degrees.

Not all of India's jails prioritize education and training for inmates

Not all of India's jails prioritize education and training for inmates

The scheme is the brainchild of one of the superintendents, M K Diwedi, who explains that the prospect of employment after jail is an important motivating factor for people to pursue studies while they are inside. 

"I got support from my staff and the inmates. Then we went to the companies, they participated and we made it successful," he explains proudly.

For the successful job candidates, the placement session has brought them even more than rehabilitation, they see it almost as a kind of rebirth.

Over the years, Tihar Jail has become a correctional haven for convicts, providing education and training. Inmates can follow courses in IT, weaving, baking, carpentry or beauty treatment. The women in Jail Number 6 even run their own beauty parlor.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas

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