Only 22% of the prisoners in Indian jails are those who have been convicted of any crime. Apart from this, 77% of the prisoners are such, whose cases are going on in different courts and no decision has been taken on them. That is, they are undertrial prisoners.
Significantly in most of the states of the North-East, the number of undertrial prisoners has increased rapidly.
This figure has been revealed in the recently published India Justice Report of 2022.
According to the report, the number of undertrial prisoners has increased the most since 2010. In 2010, this number was 2.4 lakhs, which almost doubled to 4.3 lakhs in 2021. Means it has increased by 78%.
It has been said in the report – Keeping the undertrial prisoners in custody for a long time is an indication that it is taking a long time to finish the case.
This not only increases the administrative workload, but also increases the budget spent on each inmate. Its effect falls on the government exchequer.
At the end of 2021, 11,490 prisoners across the country were kept in captivity for more than 5 years, while this figure was 7,128 in 2020 and 5,011 in 2019.
However, 96.7% of the total undertrials released during this period were released on bail within one year. Some were convicted after the completion of the trial.
Prisoners were kept more than the capacity in 16 states and three union territories. Its figure in Bihar was 113% in 2020, which increased to 140% in 2021 while in Uttarakhand the figure was 185%.
At the national level, about 30% of the prisons (391) are such where the occupancy rate is 150% or more.
Means here there are three or more prisoners instead of one prisoner. At the same time, 54% of the jails (709) are such where there is 100% occupancy rate i.e. there are two or more prisoners instead of one.
For example, among 18 large and medium states, Haryana has the most overcrowded prisons.
Of the total 139 jails in Tamil Nadu, 15 are more than 100% full. Whereas two are more than 150% full. Talking of smaller states, four out of five jails in Meghalaya are full to capacity. After this, out of all the jails in Himachal Pradesh, 14 jails are more than 100% full.
According to the report, there are two main reasons for the increase in the number of prisoners in jails despite being released on temporary bail or emergency parole.
- Arrests are on the rise.
- The courts are not hearing any other case except Urgent Bell.
Karnataka is the only state where 32% women staff in prisons the report said.
In 2021, the country’s prisons had only 886 staff against 1,391 valid posts. According to the Model Prison Manual, there should be one correctional officer for every 200 inmates and one psychological officer for every 500 inmates.
Apart from Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh, no other State/UT meets the benchmark of one prison officer per 200 inmates. And Karnataka is the only state where women constitute 32% of the total prison staff.
And in 17 states/UTs, the share of women staff in jails is not more than 10%. The last five years (2017-2021) have seen 21 States/UTs making belated but steady changes.