Kannur: A serious security lapse at the Kannur district jail has come to light after three prisoners reportedly mixed sleeping pills in the tea for officers before attempting a jailbreak though in vain.
The incident that happened on April 24 was exposed after the video records of a CCTV camera for the jail kitchen was examined. Three remand prisoners - Rafeeq, Asharaf Shamseer and Arun - have been identified as the ones who attempted to escape.
This is the first such reported instance in Kerala when prisoners gave sleeping pills to officers to break free.
First attempt fails
The first attempt was made by the prisoners on Vishu (April 15). Rafeeq, Ashraf and Arun, who were routinely put on kitchen duty, were also kept in the same cell. The plot to escape was hatched in the cell. They planned to give sleeping pills to officers in the morning and escape. However, their plan was foiled as the officers on duty on Vishu did not drink tea from the kitchen.
In the next bid on April 24, the trio made tea for seven using one litre of milk so as the taste of pills would not be detected. All the officers on duty that day took tea from the jail kitchen. Three prisoners on duty in the kitchen were also served the same tea.
Later in the night, deputy prison officer Sukumaran, assistant prison officers Yakub and Babu as well as temporary warden Pavithran were on duty. They slept off after consuming tea. Meanwhile, the trio reached the main gate after getting hold of the key. However, assistant prison officer Sajith, who was resting in a room near the gate after his duty, spotted the trio and questioned them.
They replied that they had come to inspect as there was no water in the pipe. The cop, however, did not suspect anything amiss then.
Soon, officers Sukumaran and Pavithran fainted and jail doctor, who examined them, said it was a suspected case of food poisoning. The officers’ blood pressure also shot up and they were admitted to the district hospital. Health officials also examined samples from the jail kitchen.
The doctor's initial assessment that food poisoning could have caused the dizziness prompted the trio to plot for another escape bid the very next day.
However, jail superintendent Ashokan Arippa was not convinced with the food poisoning theory. Food poisoning was also most likely to cause vomiting or loose motion. But in this case, the officers had fainted. The senior cop concluded that this happens when some drug enters the body and ordered for the CCTV checks. The image showed Rafeeq mixing something in the tea and also that these three did not drink tea that day. The cops then called the trio for questioning and they confessed to the crime. If the senior cop hadn't cracked the dizziness mystery, the three most likely would not have been identified.
The jail authorities said that the trio had confiscated the sleeping pills prescribed to mentally-ill prisoners.
The police have filed case against the three and shifted them to a special cell in the jail. Rafeeq is an accused in a pickpocketing case, Ashraf in a drug case and Arun in a murder case.
Age-old practice under scanner
The prisoners are picked for kitchen duty at central jails after assessing their background and behaviour. However, it is not practical to implement the same in district jails that house several remand prisoners. The prisoners are in jail only till they are granted bail. Therefore no one can be employed in the kitchen for long.
It was believed that prisoners were less likely to tamper with the food as even they will be eating the same. The Kannur incident may make the authorities circumspect over such duties for prisoners. Food for prisoners is given only after the jail superintendent tastes it. The same procedure is not carried out when the officers are given tea or snacks.
More than 250 remand prisoners are there in the district jail and all of them have food from the kitchen.