Prisons: A place for reformation or Inhumanity

Written By: Tanay Akash


“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but the lowest ones”. The above quote by Nelson Mandela directly forces to think about the current condition of the jails in every country especially a highly populated country like India. Jail or Prison is simply a place where people are kept when they have been arrested and are punished for a crime. It is a place of so-called reformation where culprits and under trial persons are kept for the purpose of reformation. But whenever the term “prisoner” strikes in mind it is generally believed that they are the people who are having punishment in lieu of commission of any crime and they are culprits. The concept of prison came into existence during the rise of the state as a form of social organization, even then with the motive of reformation.

As per statistical data, the total no of jails in India is approx 1382 with prisoners capacity around 1, 84, 386 prisoners in central and 1, 79, 695 in district jails. The sanctioned strength of prison staff needed is 68, 920 but actually, the strength is 49, 250 staffs. This current statistical data shows a critical condition which may even get worst with some more practical problems. Reformation is a much broader term and an event which doesn’t come in a singular day and to bring reformation a long period of constant effort is needed.

 Peeping into the real problems inside

The basic problem that a prisoner face just entering a jail whether he/she is an under trial or convicted one, is the inhumane treatment and treated with a feeling of being the culprit. It is believed that being prisoner all the fundamental, as well as legal rights, are being curtailed and they have to live as anti-social being regretting their crime. In India, it is a well-known fact that apart from heinous crimes most of the other crimes are being done due to need, poverty or sudden provocation lacking mala-fide intentions which can be reformed but the question remains same- are jails in India letting prisoners reform. The conditions of juvenile shelters are also same. Juveniles being the tender offenders are needed to be reformed in the juvenile shelters but mostly they are turning into notorious criminals.

  • While having the practical exposure it was seen that there was a clear-cut division among the prisoners as they were divided into two groups as per the prescribed punishment. A group of higher punishment or longer terms in prison has made a kind of kingdom inside, even ignored by the jail authorities most of the time and this group dominate over all the prisoners present in every such prison. In a nutshell, an under-trial prisoner whether he has committed the offense or not, until proven acquitted had to face both the ill-treatment by jail authority and those dominating group of prisoners making the dual standards even in inhumanity.
  • The second problem which could be witnessed while a jail visit is the lack of sanitation and living condition inside jails. The prisoners in most of the jails are seen to live in an under living standards with scooped roofs and barren floors. Apart from the case of others like special treatment to some leaders or some highly politically motivated cases, others have to face the same.
  • The third and very efficient problem which may be seen in every jail is the lack of reformative environment. For any reformation to take place there is always a need of peaceful environment in which the prisoner may think about their guilt and the ways to further reformation but the passive attitude of jail attendant and the shaggy environment that they observe inside a jail is completely opposite to the reformative theory.
  • The fourth problem associated with the jails is the worst food both quality as well as quantity wise. It is often said that if good food will be provided in the jails then how the prisoners will realize their faults. Somehow it may look right from one angle but from another angle, at least the prescribed jail manuals must be followed strictly.
  • The fifth problem is the lack of awareness as the prisoners were completely unaware of their legal rights as “Right to provide free legal Aid under Article 39A of the Constitution of India seemed to be a joke for them”.
  • One of most important problem related to jails in India is the passive attitude of the legal services authorities and the lack of panel lawyers associated with them. Jail authorities may be due to extreme burden never look interested in sorting the prisoners to have some recreational or reformative works even sorting the under trial prisoners who can be given bail as per the provisions of sec 436(A) Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908 automatically.

Thus, in a nutshell, it can be said that we have a racially biased justice system that over punishes, fails to rehabilitate, and does not make us safer but on the other hand it is also a truth that in India the conviction rate is just 3% which clearly stimulates a different treatment of the undertrial prisoners with the convicted ones as it is complete injustice for anyone to suffer all those inhumane conditions of which he is not liable.


Edited By: Rachit Mehrotra

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