The Viyyur Central prison in Kerala has launched its own radio, making it the latest in a string of innovative programmes in the state's prisons by officers and inmates.
Freedom Melody Radio, an FM exclusive to Viyyur prison, broadcasts every day from 6 pm to 7 pm within the prison walls. The broadcast will have a host of informative and entertaining programs for inmates, which will include a music programme where inmates can ask for their favourite songs and dedicate them to their loved ones.
"The FM was started with the supervision of the prison music band, Freedom Melody Group, and was even named after them. The 15 inmates who are part of this band are in charge of the content. They will sing and record songs that inmates ask and air them on the radio," said O J Thomas, the prison welfare officer of Viyyur. He was instrumental in developing the idea.
Thomas, along with the superintendent of the prison, came up with the idea three months ago. Once it was finalised, other officers and inmates soon came on board and the radio became a reality.
"The radio has many other shows apart from music. The inmates will also prepare funny skits and air them. There is also a programme for the health of the inmates by the jail doctor and a show that addresses several issues on the welfare of inmates and their families. The legal cell in the prison too has a show which answers the doubts of the inmates on legal issues. Moreover, the SP and Deputy SP too have some airtime, which they will use to talk about prison administration - rules, routine and responsibilities of the inmates,” Thomas said.
Those involved meet every day at the prison library and record the shows for the next day. This is then transferred to a pendrive and aired from the control room in the evening, after the inmates finish their day’s work.
"Speakers have been fixed all over the prison so that inmates can tune in to the radio from wherever they want to," he said.
The FM was launched to improve the mental well-being of the inmates. For this reason, they are also exposed to news from both inside and outside of the prison walls.
"We air a three-minute news bulletin on developments inside the prison as well as on important news events around the world. We want our inmates to be aware and not be intellectually stagnated. The news is also presented by inmates," Thomas said.
Thomas said that the programme is currently exclusive to Viyyur, and says that it is possible that no other prison in India has this initiative as of now. A magazine, Punarjani (rebirth), by the inmates, will be released by the end of May.
"The magazine is an anthology of poems, prose, essays etc., written by the inmates of the jail. The first issue has gone for printing and should be released by the end of the month. We are happy that we have had great success in all cultural initiatives started by the prison, including the radio," he said.
The FM was introduced by R Sreelekha, the DG of Prisons and Correctional Services in Kerala. She is the brain behind several such innovative projects in Kerala's prisons.
"She introduced the FM. The first transmission was launched by Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar in Viyyur on May 14," he said.
The officers in Viyyur have many more innovative ideas for the overall development of prison inmates and help them contribute.
"We carried this out successfully. Now, one by one, we will launch all the projects that we have planned," Thomas said.