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Prison in India

Published: 13th Oct, 2022


In the recently highlighted issue, the Border Security Force handed over the Bangladeshi illegal migrants to their country without any procedure as established due to the lack of spaces in ‘Prisons’.

  • This has highlighted the concerns regarding overcrowded and staff less prisons in India.


What is the present situation?

An analysis of prison statistics by the India Justice Report (IJR) has found:

  • Increase in arrest: An increase of 7.7 lakh in the number of people arrested in 2021 as compared to 2020. 
  • Increased prisoners: The number of prisoners has shot up from 3.7 lakh to 5.54 lakh in the same period — a 48% increase.
  • It was most acute in three northern States/Union Territories— Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi. In these three regions, the occupancy rate crossed 180% in 2021 (180 prisoners for every 100 vacancies). 
  • The highest increase was observed in Delhi, where the occupancy rate increased from 60% to 183%.

  • Decrease in staff: While on the one hand, jails are overflowing, on the other, the vacancies for prison officers are alarmingly high in some States.
  • In Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand over 60% of officer positions were vacant.

Types of Prisons:

  • In India there are three levels of Prison
  • Taluka level (Sub jails)
  • district level (district jails)
  • central level (central jails)

There are also some other types of jail such as women jails, Borstal school, open jails, and special jails.

What are the major issues across the jails in India?

  • Overcrowding: Under-trials of the prisoners is prominent in Indian states, which ultimately lead to overcrowding in jails.
  • Shortage of staff: The ratio between the prison staff and the prison population is approximately 1:7. It means only one prison officer is available for 7 prisoners.
  • Custodial Tortures /Deaths
  • Other issues
    • prolonged detention of under-trial prisoners
    • unsatisfactory living conditions
    • lack of treatment Programs
    • Constant allegations for the indifferent and even inhuman approaches of prison staff
    • Lack of legal aid
    • Physical abuse of prisoners by the guards 
    • Suicide in prisons

Measures taken by the Government

Right of Prisoners

  • The rights of prisoners are covered under the Prison Act, 1894.
  • Important Rights
  • Right To Legal Aid
  • Right To Speedy Trial
  • Right Against Solitary Confinement And Protection From Torture
  • E-Prisons Project: The E-prisons project supplements the Prisoner Information Management system (PIMS) which provides a centralized approach for recording and managing prisoner information and generating different kinds of reports.
  • Model Prison Manual 2016: The manual provides detailed information about the legal services (including free services) available to prison inmates. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an advisory to all States and UTs informing them about the legal aid facility available to under-trial prison inmates.
  • National Legal Services Authority: It has launched a web application to facilitate the under trial prisoners with free legal services. The objective of the above application is to make the legal services system more transparent and useful.

Exemplary developments

  • The Maharashtra government and Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives Pvt Ltd have signed a MoU recently with an aim to work together to design, implement, and monitor and document a model programme to provide legal help to prisoners, especially under-trials.

Required measures:

  • More space share
  • New reforms to the judicial process to decrease the length of trials and reduce the number of inmates.
  • Modernisation: Need to make jails modern and technologically adept with stringent security measures
  • Better standard of living: Need to introduce better living and health facilities, libraries, and training programmes for prisoners to help them get back to society.
  • Focus on mental health: Effective initiatives to promote mental development.
  • Introducing Pattern-or-Practise Investigations (PoP Investigation) against prison administration, on lines of the United States that first introduced PoP Investigations in 1991 to initiate police reforms, could be key to solving the crisis.

Prominent recommendation of A. N. Mulla. committee (1980) are:

  • Improving prison condition by making available proper food, clothing, sanitation etc.
  • The focus must be on human rights of prisoners besides improving their amenities.
  • Undertrial in jails to be reduced to bare minimum and they be kept away from convicts.
  • The prison staff to be properly trained and organized.
  • The focus must be on Rehabilitation and reforming of offender.
  • The Government should make an effort to provide adequate financial resources.

Verifying, please be patient.

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