Convicts and undertrials lodged in Maharashtra’s jails may soon have newer avenues open up for them. The Maharashtra Prisons Department is planning to tie up with government and private varsities to offer these inmates a wider bouquet of academic options to be completed through correspondence.

“We are planning to tie up with universities including the University of Mumbai to offer our inmates academic opportunities,” said Dr Vijay Satbir Singh, additional chief secretary (home).

The basic purpose (of the initiative) is their value addition and rehabilitation,” added Singh, adding that the prisoners had time on their hands to study for these correspondence courses and pass with flying colours. These qualifications will make them employable and enable their integration in society once they were released from jail.”

The Maharashtra Prisons Department allows inmates to appear for courses conducted by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU) and also the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) for practical training.

Over 10,000 inmates from the state’s prisons have appeared for courses from standard X and pre-professional to post-graduation with examinations being conducted in the premises.

Yakub Memon, 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts accused who was hung at the Nagpur central jail last year, had done his MA in English Literature and Political Science through the IGNOU.

“Prisons have a good success rate in exams,” noted Singh, adding that they were also introducing new skills with inmates from the Amravati jail assembling LED lamps. Those lodged in the Aurangabad jail provide parts for the local automobile industries, he added, stating that prisoners in the Kalamba jail at Kolhapur made laddoos to be distributed to devotees at the famous temple of Goddess Ambabai in the city. Prisoners are trained in making furniture, leather goods, handloom and powerloom products, paper and bakery products.

“We are also setting up libraries in all prisons,” said Singh, adding that prisoners were also being trained in using computers and repairing them.

Maharashtra has 54 prisons, including nine central jails, 19 A-class district jails, and 23 and three B and C category district jails respectively. However, as on September 2016, the total number of inmates housed at these correctional facilities was 31,538, much more than the sanctioned strength of 23,942. The nine central jails include Arthur Road, Taloja and Thane in Mumbai, Yerawada in Pune, Kalamba in Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik Road, Nagpur and Amravati.