Highly placed sources told FE on Friday that the issue was discussed in a Cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. On Wednesday Kiran Bedi, first woman IPS officer of the country called on Badal and discussed the issue. Badal told Bedi that the government was keen to convert all jails into 'reform cells' and was even considering shifting the jails to places outside the cities. It may be recalled that Bedi during her stint had won acclaim for reforms brought in Tihar Jail.
Sources in the chief minister's office told that the government is keen to "commercially exploit" the jail lands and the Cabinet had approved the transfer of vacant land of jails at Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozpore to the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) for commercial use.
In addition around 38 acres of land under Kapurthala and Patiala jail was under consideration of the government for sale to private parties for setting up commercial complexes. Nearly, 300 acres of land for an open jail in Kapurthala district is also being transferred to a state government agency for setting up a new industrial focal point there.
As the cities and towns expanded, these jail properties had come to be in their centre and Jail officials had also expressed security concerns about these jails being inside towns. The government hopes to garner more than Rs 550 crores from the sale of Central jail lands in Bathinda and Jalandhar.
Sources said that the sale of jail lands would generate atleast Rs 1,050 crores to Punjab government. The state is considering Kapurthala and Faridkot districts for two new modern jails with a capacity to lodge 2,500 prisoners.
The state government has also started contemplating looking for sites for new, bigger and modern jails where the facilities for the reformation of criminals could be provided.