Prisons – Places of Reform or Hotbed of crime?

All of us are aware of the overcrowding in the prisons. A large amount of population made up in these prisons is of Undertrials.

  • At the end of 2007, almost 2/3rd (66.6%) of all inmates in prisons in various parts of India were under-trials. As per a recent data released for Tihar jail for 2011 this figure was as high as 73.5%.
  • A large number of these persons are those who could not afford a bail, since they belong to poor families, and could not find / afford sureties.
  • A study undertaken by Raman Nanda for PUCL found several malpractices in jails. It found that young vagabond girls, either orphans or without any homes, often picked up on petty charges / vagrancy (Awaragardi) (under S. 169 of IPC) are bailed out by single male warders / police officials on understanding that they would cohabit them. The study points out several pitiful cases of sexual abuse of such young girls.
  • It also quotes of instances where even young boys (who have no roots in the city / state) are picked up on petty charges and once charged are made to do all menial work. They have no facility in the prison and treated more like slaves.
  • Some young undertrials alleged that even if they manage to get bail, but since they come to court regularly for attending their trials, police picks them first if there is any incident in their locality.
  • Yet another allegation is that often police will demand hafta from them, and if they do not pay are thrown inside jails on some petty charges, while the ones who pay are allowed to go scot free, even if they are commiting crimes simply because they are paying regular hafta.
  • One of the major reasons for these large undertrials is simply because their cases are languishing in the courts for years together. Since courts have failed to deliver timely justice, perhaps releasing under-trials may be one way of reducing over-crowding in the prisons, inhumane treatment of people and making hardened criminals of petty criminals.

– Largely based on a Study undertaken by Raman Nanda for PUCL


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