In a controversial move, the Kerala Prisons and Correctional Services department has decided to relocate inmates from the Women Prison and Correctional Home in Attakulangara, Thiruvananthapuram, to the old women’s jail complex within the central prison Poojappura. Following the relocation of the women prisoners, almost 300 male inmates from Poojappura will be shifted to Attakulangara. The decision, which is said to help address the issue of overcrowding in Poojappura, has sparked strong opposition, particularly from former and current prison officers. Allegations of gender-based discrimination and patriarchal decision-making have emerged as the officers speak out against the move. .The women officers and inmates of the Attakulangara prison have petitioned the state Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services raising their concerns over the relocation. The Prisons Department had cited overcrowding in other prisons as the reason for shifting women inmates. According to them, the Attakulangara prison can accommodate around 300 inmates. The officers said that Poojappura central prison can accommodate only around 750 prisoners, while currently it houses more than 1300. The number of women prisoners in Attakulangara, on the other hand, is only 40. The average number over the past few months has ranged between 40 to 60, and the highest it has ever gone is 85.The first women's prison in Kerala was established in Neyyattinkara, Thiruvananthapuram, in 1990. Later in 2011, inmates from both Neyyattinkara and the special women's block of Poojappura central prison were transferred to Attakulangara. The facility in Attakulangara was designated for women during former top cop Alexander Jacob’s tenure as the Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services.The women officers said that a tailoring unit, food production unit, elephant caparison production unit, saree designing unit, and an agriculture unit function at Attakulangara, all of which cannot function at the central prison. “A lot of effort was put in by many women officers for the development of Attakulangara women’s jail. Taking that away from us now has other intentions behind it. We are really pained by this move,” a former officer said..Änother officer alleged, “There is a district jail and a special sub jail for men. Overcrowding is a lame excuse, there is no such issue. In 2011, when Attakulangara was handed over to women, many officers were not so happy about it. There was a lobby against us, who opposed providing a prime location exclusively for women. They wanted to wield control all by themselves.”According to some officers, there were times when around 1500 inmates were housed in Poojappura central jail. “They did not complain about the overcrowding then. The women officers currently in service cannot raise their concerns — if they do, disciplinary action will be taken against us,” a woman officer said.According to the women officers, before 2011, when women’s cells were located inside the central prison block, it was entirely managed by male officers. “They would take the inmates inside and lock the block, including us officers, from outside. If women officers wished to come out, we had to ring a bell, upon which they would come and open it. Reporting of new admissions too was done by male officers. No such issues prevailed after the Attakulangara prison was provided exclusively for women. Both the inmates and the officers were comfortable. Earlier, there were many instances when we have had to face lewd questions by male colleagues,” alleged a former officer.None of their concerns regarding the decision to shift from Attakulangara to Poojappura have been addressed, the women officers alleged.Even though TNM couldn’t get an official response from the Director General of Prisons, some of the officers said that there will be a separate administration and separate entrance for the women’s complex inside the central jail.