Cookies, potato chips, shirts help inmates to new life

Tue May 24, 2011 12:36pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Sunil Kataria

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A jail-based brand that includes crispy potato chips, crunchy cookies and formal shirts seems an unlikely route back to life in the outside world for inmates in South Asia's largest prison.

Yet efforts by the Tihar Jail complex in New Delhi to transform the lives of its inmates and prepare them for a fresh start through vocational training in diverse fields has created the successful TJ'S brand of goods.

Herbal products and school desks are also among the many products being manufactured and sold, well enough that prison authorities have set up a website to boost sales still further.

Sanjivan Rai, who is serving a term in Tihar Jail for marijuana trafficking, said the skills he was acquiring would help him find employment outside to earn a living with dignity.

"We can start our own business once we get out of here. We can maybe start a small snack-making unit," he told Reuters Television inside a bakery at Tihar Jail, as he took a break from frying potato chips.

"Even if we decide to seek work somewhere, whatever we learn here will only help us."

Life outside jail is still tough for former inmates, since they have to counter the stigma of having been in prison, which is seen as a place for social outcasts and hardcore criminals. This makes re-integration into society virtually impossible.

The idea behind the TJ'S label was to break these taboos and channel the inmates' energy constructively, while building their self-esteem, said Ram Niwas Sharma, Deputy Inspector General of the Tihar Jail complex.   Continued...

<p>An inmate packs rusks at a bakery inside the Tihar Jail complex in New Delhi May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi</p>