The slow criminal justice system in India has put pressure on prisons. What are the issues associated with the Indian prisons? Also, suggest remedial measures.|

Indian judicial system has been criticized for its backlog which has been increasing with years. The impact of this is being felt not only on lowering public confidence but also prisons.
The issues associated with Prisons:

  • Overcrowding of prisons : Their total capacity is 2,86,751 inmates and total prison population is 3,64,081 – an average overcrowding rate of 28.60 per cent.
  • Of these, 2,38,657 prisoners out of an all-India prisoner population of 3,64,081 (65 per cent of the total) are undertrials.
  • According to NCRB records, out of these 2.82 lakh undertrial inmates, over 55% are Muslims, Dalits and tribals who lack financial capacity to pay for bail as they come from the marginalized section.
  • Prisoners are often subjected to psychological and physical torture during detention and exposed to subhuman living conditions and prison violence.
  • Understaffing of prison officials: 33% of the total requirement of prison officials still lies vacant, almost 36% of vacancy for supervising officers is still unfulfilled.
  • In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.
  • According to the National Human Rights Commission, 70% of the deaths due to curable diseases like TB, the spread of which is caused by the overcrowding and sordid conditions prevalent in the prisons
  • In the absence of a dedicated skill enhancement programme inside jail, the inmates are left with no option but to re-enter the criminal world when they step out.
  • Prison is under State as per Seventh Schedule which lack capacity to maintain overcrowded prisons.

Remedies:

  • Judicial system needs to be reformed and process reformed.
  • Laws need to be amended. For instance Law commission recommendation that undertrials who have completed one-third of the maximum sentence for offences up to seven years be released on bail can be implemented.
  • The Law Commission report had mentioned that speedy investigation by the police has not been achieved due to reasons ranging from corruption within the system to the apathetic attitude of the officers in taking the case earnestly.
  • Contracting out correctional facilities to private firms, the quality of imprisonment can be improved and money can be saved like in USA and UK. This can blossom into a vibrant industry. The recently launched ‘Skill India’ mission of the Government of India may be aligned with this goal. 

Article 21 of the constitution entitles prisoners to a fair and speedy trial as part of their fundamental right to life and liberty and in absence of efficient judiciary and innovative prison management system, it is being blatantly violated.

Question for UPSC Mains:
The slow criminal justice system in India has put pressure on prisons. What are the issues associated with the Indian prisons? Also, suggest remedial measures. DH | The Wire | Business World

Published: October 24, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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