Jul 14
Jailhouse Beats
Jailhouse Beats
STRAINS of music drift through the dreary corridors, waking up many of the bedraggled inmates from their sleep. Some prop themselves up on the bed. Others turn from side to side, yawn and shut their eyes. But they don’t go back to sleep; rather, they lend an ear to the mellifluous notes – instrumental, vocal or a mix of both.
Every morning at 7, when deputy warders at the central correctional homes in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Belagavi turn on the speakers located close to the rows of cells, the sound of soothing music – devotional songs and even Hindi and Kannada numbers – casts a calming effect on the inmates, mostly convicts but some undertrials as well.
Soothing and therapeutic musical strains relieve mental stress and anxiety that people, especially the inmates in a jail undergo, in their routine life. Music infuses positive energy into their souls.
The initiative is part of the social welfare activities of Mindtree Foundation which, in collaboration with an NGO, has also been running a skill development and livelihood programme for Karnataka’s jail inmates since 2017.
It was in 2019 that the Foundation, with technical assistance from Radio City 91.1 FM, launched Bengaluru Radio, an in-house community initiative for the inmates of Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara or Central Correction Home. It first set up an acoustically integrated radio station control room in a room earmarked by the jail authorities and installed necessary equipment like mixers, amplifiers, speakers, mics, computers, furniture and other electrical accessories. 
Since then, a radio jockey roped in from Radio City comperes the community radio and plays music that is broadcast through physically connected speakers fitted near the prison cells. The station runs from 7 am – 7 pm and besides music, airs news bulletins. The inmates of the correctional facility are also allowed to use the community radio to request and dedicate special songs in remembrance of their family members – an initiative that is greeted with enthusiasm.
Spurred by the success at Bengaluru jail, Mindtree Foundation has now extended the initiative to Mysuru and Belagavi central prisons starting this January. Today, as many as 7,350 inmates in the three jails benefit from this heartwarming initiative. While Mindtree has funded the set-up cost, the recurring expenditure is borne by Karnataka government’s prison department.
The community radio initiative also gives the inmates a platform to exhibit their compering talent through a show called Positivity Kathegalu. As part of this, around 125 inmates and personnel in the three jails have been trained as radio jockeys by a team from Radio City.
The inmates trained are usually convicts (murderers, POSCO convicts, forgers, etc.) and undertrials.
Successful participants are eligible for a remission of six days per month (72 days a year), which they could use for parole or a reduction in the overall quantum of sentences.
The radio initiative has been appreciated by inmates and authorities alike. Medical officers at the prisons have revealed that there has been a considerable decrease in negativity among the inmates since the launch of the programme. 
“I have been deeply involved in a lot of CSR programmes in the past but this one is very close to my heart. I see it as a life-transformational journey for the inmates as it gives them an opportunity to rebuild their lives”, says Mr Abraham Moses, GM & Good Samaritan at Mindtree Foundation.
RJ Sowjanya of Radio City 91.1 FM, who has been involved in the show, gushes: “I enjoyed doing this show and never knew these guys have so much knowledge. They are fluent in their talk. I was happy to know about the facilities they have.”
Mindtree Foundation is also facilitating the inmates training in tailoring, embroidery, computer data entry, mushroom cultivation and gardening. The aim is to give the inmates hope and dignity, as well as prepare them to earn a livelihood and become financially independent once released.