In June when an NGO opened a library at the District Jail in Dimapur, it did not expect to see any immediate results in the lives of the inmates. However, within a span of two and a half months, the library has brought significant changes in the lives of the inmates. Spearheaded by the NGO's project-head in Dimapur, Alemla Longchar, a local who took it upon herself to conduct regular reading sessions for the inmates, the inmates have begun to request books they would like to read and have shown interest in skill-development and rehabilitation after their sentence is over.
The library was opened by Sarvahitey, a Delhi-based NGO, under its Project Paper Bridge and was inaugurated in June by Limasunup Jamir, Commissioner of Police, Dimapur who at the time of the inauguration had hoped that the library would serve as a first step toward a second chance specially for the Under Trial Prisoners.
In the upcoming weeks, Alemla Longchar began conducting reading sessions for the inmates who gradually began to check out books form the library and take them to their cell, properly following the procedures of a library.
Most of the inmates have either passed class 10 or are school drop-outs with a couple of them having a bachelor's degree. Speaking to us over the phone, Ms. Alemla said that she visited the jail twice a week for one hour and interacted with the inmates.
In her interaction she found out that inmates also required counselling. While she does not have a formal degree in counselling, her communication background helped her communicate with the inmates. She began interaction and discussion session for the inmates. She was eventually requested by the inmates for personal counselling.
These personal counselling session is mostly about the problems the inmates face and their plans.
During her visits to the library Ms. Alemla also began counselling for two inmates at the jail who were HIV positive. She said that despite so many awareness campaigns, there is still a taboo around people who are diagnosed as HIV positive. She began interaction sessions with the HIV positive inmates at the jail and in the course of her interactions found out that these persons were forsaken by their families as well due to their diagnosis.
Ms. Alemla has been not only counselling these inmates but also contacting their family members to convince them in visiting and eventually accepting them back in the family.
She also spoke about a basket-weaving workshop she has started at the prison to provide them with skills that may aide them in their rehabilitation in future.
She said that the library has certainly sparked an interest in the inmates for knowledge. She says that the priority, of course, is their rehabilitation and then each one of them can further pursue a career or education.
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