National Conference On Criminal Activities And Radicalization In Jails

  • The Bureau of Police Research and Development(BPR&D) is organizing a two-day National Conference on ‘Criminal Activities and Radicalization in Jails: Vulnerability of Inmates and Jail Staff and their Protection’ on 12th and 13th September.
  • The conference was inaugurated at BPR&D Headquarters at Mahipalpur, New Delhi.

Key Issues Proposed

  • To understand various criminal activities at individual and gang levels and consider safety measures for vulnerable inmates and jail staff.
  • To analyze and formulate the security and protection standards for prison Staffs
  • To provide an inter-disciplinary platform for correctional personnel and experts to exchange and share their experiences on prison reforms.

Major Issues in Indian Prison

Overcrowding

  • Congestion in jails has been always a major source of concern. According to statistics available with the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, over 19 lakh prisoners are lodged at the prisons — indicating that the prisons are overpopulated by around 50,000 inmates.
  • In some jails in Maharashtra, the occupancy rate is 276%. In Chhattisgarh, it is 233% while in Delhi, it is 226%.
  • Overcrowding strains prison infrastructure, hampers correctional services, spreads contagious diseases and leads to multiple problems for prison administration including larger incidence of indiscipline and violence, and diversion of prison staff for routine duties such as distribution food, security and guarding

Large Number of Undertrials

  • Undertrials prisoners are the main reason for overcrowded prisons. It is a reflection of the unduly long process that an accused goes through before being acquitted or convicted. According to NCRB, 2016, there were close to 4,33,000 people in prison at the end of 2016.Of these, 68% were Undertrials , or people who are yet to be found guilty of the crimes they are accused of.

Poor and Unhygienic Living Conditions

  • The overcrowding in the prisons leads itself to unsatisfactory living conditions. Although the several jails have reformed outlined earlier have focused on issues like diet, clothing and cleanliness, unsatisfactory living conditions continue in many prisons around the country.
  • The poor sanitary facilities, lack of decent health care increases the likelihood of health problems in prisons.

Staff Shortage

  • Lack of sufficient staff, especially medical staff is another issue in Indian prisons. An analysis of the sanctioned and actual posted staff strength in jails shows that the actual strength of the jail staff posted against the sanctioned strength in Jharkhand (29.7%), Uttarakhand (32.1%) and Bihar (34.8%) are much below the national average percentage (65.4%).
  • At all India level, there were 8 inmates for each jail staff in all jails in the country.

Corruption

  • Corruption by prison staff is common in prisons around the world. Given that the substantial power, for guards exercised over inmates, these problems are predictable, but the low salaries that guards are generally paid severely aggravate them. In exchange for special treatment, inmates supplement guards' salaries with bribes.

Deaths in Jails

  • Death of an inmate is a matter of serious concern for prison administration. According to the NCRB, the number of “unnatural” deaths in prisons, doubled between 2015 and 2016, from 115 to 231.

Torture and Sexual abuse

  • Custodial violence and torture continue to be major issues in Indian prisons. Third degree tortures within four walls of prison occur frequently and many times they remain unnoticed. These tortures makes victim to suffer mentally and physically and sometimes it gets long time for them to recover from that trauma.
  • Physical and sexual violence is a common scenario in prisons especially for women inmates, faced by inmates at the hands of authorities and other prisoners.

Inadequate security measures

  • Poor security measures and prison management often leads to violent clashes among inmates and resultant injury, death of the inmates. Also in such cases the prison infrastructure gets damaged further adding woes to prison conditions.

Insufficient Legal Aid

  • The absence of legal aid until the point of trial reduces greatly the value of the country’s system of legal representation to the poor. The lawyers are not available at the point when many of them need such assistance.

Steps by Government

Model Prison Manual, 2016

  • It aims at bringing in basic uniformity in laws, rules and regulations governing the administration of prisons and the management of prisoners all over the country.
  • Key revisions in the new Manual include-
  • Access to free legal services
  • Additional provisions for women prisoners
  • Rights of prisoners sentenced to death
  • Modernisation& Prison computerization
  • Focus on after-care services
  • Organisational uniformity and increased focus on prison correctional staff
  • Inspection of Prisons

E-Prison Project, 2018

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs is supporting the States/UTs in implementing the E-Prisons project that aims to introduce efficiency in prison management through digitization.
  • The E-prisons project supplements the Prisoner Information Management system (PIMS), developed by National Informatics Centre, which provides a centralized approach for recording and managing prisoner information and generating different kinds of reports.

Important Committees for Prison Reforms

Mulla Committee: All India Committee on Jail Reforms (1980)

  • The basic objective of the Committee was to review the laws, rules and regulations keeping in view the overall objective of protecting society and rehabilitating offenders.
  • It recommended a total ban on the heinous practice of clubbing together juvenile offenders with hardened criminals in prisons.

Malimath Committee(2000)

  • It recommended admissibility of confessions made before a police officer as evidence in a court of law.
  • It also suggested constituting a National Judicial Commission and amending Article 124 to make impeachment of judges less difficult.
  • The panel had made 158 recommendations but these were never implemented.

Justice Amitava Roy Committee(2018)

  • In September, 2018, the Supreme Court formed a Committee on Prison Reforms chaired by former apex court judge, Justice Amitava Roy, to examine the various problems plaguing prisons in the country, from overcrowding to lack of legal advice to convicts to issues of remission and parole, with special focus on various issues concerning women prisoners.

Way Forward

  • Prison administration is an important element of criminal justice system in India. Though the prison falls under the state list under the constitution of India, yet the Central Government has been taking various steps from time to time in prison reforms and assisting the state in better prison administration.
  • The government should ensure public participation in correctional services which might prove critical for strengthening the efforts towards reformation of prisoners.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, September, 2019