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Conditions of Indian Prisons

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Group no.: 10 | Name: Keerthana Adidass, Simranjeet Chhatwal, Anika Gangal

Do we have to care for prisoners?

Prisons have a long-standing tradition of being a place of retribution and do not evoke a sense of envy in anyone. It is not surprising given the type of people they are supposed to house. Locked in there should be the worst of humanity. But the reality is quite far from it. Today prisons don’t just hold criminals but a lot of others who might not deserve those harsh conditions are there. This brings us face to face with a few questions, “Has the deterrent prison conditions kept people from committing crimes? What does this tell us about the society? Do the prisoners lack virtue ethics? Do we give the prisoners a chance to develop virtue ethics?”  

Perhaps looking at the harsh realities of what a prison is really like in India will change how we look at people confined there. It might also answer few of the above questions.

Facts about Prisons: Based on the Prison Statistics Report 2015:

  1. The number of convicts in Indian prisons is less than 50 percent
    [pic 1]
    Data shows that seven out of ten prisoners in captivity are awaiting trial. India ranks 18
    th in having high levels of undertrial population.
  2. Only three out of every ten undertrial prisoners spend less than 3 months behind bars without having a trial. [pic 2]From the above data it is clear to see that about 35 percent of undertrial prisoners stay behind bars for 2 to 3 years without a conviction. Even though a small number of about 4 percent, people stay in jails for 3 to 5 years just in the name investigation.

  1. There is one death every five and half hours inside an Indian prison.

    [pic 3]

    There is one suicide every five days. The likeliness of committing suicide in a prison is almost twice than outside. Most death are termed ‘Natural’. However in Judicial Custody a person is dependent on the state for up keep of their health. So if they were deprived of this it cannot be termed as ‘natural’. Status of investigation of such deaths is not available in public domain. The most common form of ‘Unnatural’ death in prisons is suicides.

  1. 28% of the prison population is illiterate.

[pic 4]

As 70 percent of the prisoners are either illiterate or have been educated below Class X, they know little or nothing of their rights and are unable to challenge police procedures or ensure they have the benefit of good representation or insist on fair trial procedures.

  1. There are 18 psychiatrist/ psychologists for the entire prison population in the country. There are 34 percent vacancies in the staffing of prisons. So what is supposed to be managed by 80236 prison officials and staffs, it is managed by 53009 of them.
    A lot of the staff are on suspension or absent on leave or on ancillary and administrative work. Prisons often rely on convict warders who prison staff must rely on heavily to control the prison. Prison services staffs are ill-trained, poorly paid, badly accommodated and often remain without promotion or any career advancement for years.

  1. Women prisoners formed 4.3 % of the prison population. There has been a 61 percent increase in the number of women inmates from 2000 to 2015. Between 2005 and 2015 there have be 477 women inmates who have died in prison.
  1. There are only 2 inspections per month by prison inspectors. Medical inspections form 43 percent and judicial inspection for 30 percent of the total inspection.    
  1. [pic 5]

The two 2 inspections that happen every months will be a one of the 4 types and hence does not solve any problem that may arise between the each division’s next visit. These visits are also not properly scheduled.

  1. 86 Rupees is spent on a prisoner per day. Of which 52 rupees is on the food. Rajastan spends the least at rupees 8 and Bihar the most at 229. There has been a 20% raise in the prison expenditure from 2014 to 2015. But this does not indicate better conditions. There is an unreasonable variation in the spending on prisons in different states. There are no resources allocated for education and vocational training, which has a direct impact on the prison health.

  1. There are 6185 foreign national prisoners in India. Only 2363 are convicted.

[pic 6]

More than half the foreign national prisoners are housed in West Bengal. This data does not account for those foreign prisoners who are in the prison beyond their term. The children of these prisoners also do not add to this number.

With these numbers we can further our discussion on why we need to discuss prisons and answer the uncomfortable questions this discussion will raise.

One thing the data clearly highlights is the fact that most people detained in the prisons are not convicted criminals. They are only here because of circumstances that are not of their own making. While some actions put them there, taking no action is keeping them there. So can we ignore this section of our population?

The cause and consequences of the facts stated above are discussed below to facilitate better understanding of what the data really means.

Unnecessary arrests and lethargic attitude towards under trials

The case of a daily wage labourer illustrates Bansi was arrested on charges of theft. For the next 3 days, his family went around trying to find a lawyer they could afford. He later got to know that a government-empanelled lawyer could represent him in court, free of cost. While his paper work was being processed, it had been 14 days that he was behind bars. At being produced in court, he was again remanded to judicial custody. Bansi had been shifted to another ward by the time a volunteer paralegal came to his aid. By the time a lawyer was assigned to him, he had already spent 25 days in prison.

Like Bansi, about 67% of the prison population is waiting for a trial. Even Uganda and UAE do better than India in this aspect. In the sub-continent, Sri Lanka and Nepal are much better, only Pakistan and Bangladesh are marginally worse. Unnecessary arrests, slow pace of criminal trials, deliberately delaying trials for administrative convenience, vacancies in the magistracy are responsible for overcrowded prisons and sub-human prison conditions.

Callous and insensitive attitude of jail authorities



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