State prisons suffer from overcrowding; no welfare policy for inmates

At 115 percent occupancy, on any given day there are more than 4 lakh prisoners in India


The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of Punjab has said that the prisons department has kept it waiting for a year and a half to submit a status report on the problem of overcrowding in prisons and the absence of reformative programmes there, The Tribune India reported.

Ropar-based activist Dinesh Chadha had filed a complaint with the rights commission in September 2018, alleging that a number of state prisons were severely overcrowded with more than double their sanctioned capacity and without any welfare policy for improving the living conditions in jails.

In his complaint it was alleged that due to overcrowded prisons, the inmates were forced to face inhuman conditions because it was not possible to maintain proper hygiene, good food and health facilities in overpopulated jails. There was also no concrete policy for rehabilitating the prisoners.

According to the India Justice Report 2019, the occupancy rate in Indian prisons stood at 114%, reported Quartz India. Twelve of the large and mid-sized states included in the study had an occupancy of over 100%. Chhattisgarh (222.5%), Madhya Pradesh (208%), and Uttar Pradesh (168%) were especially overburdened.

According to the report, for every convict India had two undertrials in its jails with 41% of the undertrial population being concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. It also stated that the number of convicts increased by 8 percent between 2010 and 2016 and the number of undertrial prisoner population grew by 22 percent.

Stating the reasons for overcrowding, the report cited factors ranging from an increase in the registered number of crimes, overuse of arrest powers, investigation and prosecution delays, infrastructural deficiencies in getting prisoners to court, shortage of judges, dissatisfactory legal representation and case overloads with longer trials.

A recently released National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for data on prisons in India 2015 – 2017 said that the number of prison inmates grew 7.4 percent during 2015 – 2017 surpassing the accommodation capacity of 6.8 percent during the same period.

The report said that a total of 1,412 prisons across the country had over 4.50 lakh prisoners – around 60,000 more than the total capacity of all prisons at the end of 2017. The number of inmates rose from 4.19 lakh in 2015 to 4.33 lakh in 2016 and to 4.33 lakh in 2016 and to 4.50 lakh in 2017. The occupancy rate grew from 114.4 percent in 2015 to 115.1 percent in 2017.

The biggest problem of overcrowding was in Uttar Pradesh which despite having the highest capacity to accommodate prisoners faced the steepest problem of overcrowding. With 70 prisons that could house 58,400 inmates, it has an occupancy rate of over 165 percent at 96,383 inmates.

According to the NCRB, the central jails of the country had the highest number of inmates at 2.04 lakh, followed by the district jails at sub jails at 1.97 lakh and 35,541 respectively.

These numbers provide a bleak picture of the prisons in India and the inhumane conditions in which the inmates are kept. There is a dearth of staff and medical professionals to treat the inmates who are suffering from health conditions. The delay of the prisons in sharing status reports with the concerned authorities only goes to show the lack of value the prison department has for the life of inmates who have to endure deplorable living conditions for years to come.


India Justice Report 2019 shows country’s failing criminal justice system
Pathetic treatment of women prisoners, who endure long terms of sentences, horrible living conditions



Related Articles