Over 14,000 inmates get fresh lease of life at Tihar’s de-addiction center

‘Those with a history of substance abuse mostly ones accused of petty offences’

‘Those with a history of substance abuse mostly ones accused of petty offences’

While housing some of the most hardened criminals in the country, Delhi’s Tihar jail has also notched several success stories related to reforming and rehabilitating inmates. The 120-bed de-addiction centre, operating out of the Central Jail Hospital at Tihar’s jail no. 3 since 2006, has authored one such transformation by helping over 14,000 prisoners overcome substance abuse in the past four years.

Over 3,400 inmates were treated here in 2019, and 4,300 and 4,400 in the pandemic years 2020 and 2021; This year, over 1,900 inmates have checked in until June 30.

The range of addiction spans from alcohol to drugs such as opioids, cocaine and cannabis.

“Most inmates who have come to the prison are affected by alcoholism while a lot of them are addicted to multiple other drugs. Apart from medical treatment, we also offer counseling sessions on the ill-effects of taking to such vices and the larger impact on their lives and families,” a jail officer said.

The center is helmed by a senior medical officer and has three departments, psychiatry, pathology and medical department. “There are three psychiatry specialists, three senior resident psychiatrists and one counsellor,” an officer said.

Treatment, counseling

The officer added that during the 7-to-10-day period of treatment, inmates show aggressive behavior and experience withdrawal symptoms. “We administer them sedatives to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. Eventually, towards the end of the week, patients become largely sober and are discharged from the center for follow-up counseling,” the officer added.

“They are also introduced to yoga and other recreational activities,” another jail officer said.

Ajay Dalal, RMO of Central Jail Hospital, said that inmates with a history of substance abuse were mostly those involved in petty offences. “They told the doctors and counsellors that they took to petty crimes like snatching and robbery to earn a quick buck and finance their addiction. Most of the addicts are men; women addicts are treated inside their designated jails,” he said.

Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel said there was no criteria to measure the “success” of rehabilitation as the inmates are within the protected environment of prison premises even after being released from the centre. “Relapse can happen once they are out of jail,” he said.

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