Millennium Post

CHRI’s study underlines how lack of review led jails to alarming conditions

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) launched two unique reports on the state of prison monitoring in India on Tuesday. These reports underline how a lack of review has led to alarming conditions in jails – with a huge under trial inmates, a majority of whom, are poor.

Wajahat Habibullah, Executive Committee CHRI at a national consultation, launched the reports, “Looking into the Haze: A Study on Prison Monitoring in India”, and “Circle of Justice: A National Report on Under Trial Review Committees on Prison Monitoring”.

The reports emphasised on the awful consequences of unreformed prisons, especially of many Kashmiri minors who had been arrested during an earlier outbreak of violence in Jammu and Kashmir a decade back had emerged as some of the leaders of the current violence. This was a probable outcome of minors being held with ‘hardened criminals’ instead of juvenile detention homes as should have happened under law.

Experts and activists also feel the need of transparency in the penal system and also feel that an effective monitoring of prisons would solve many of the problems by independent, informed and sensitive monitors. A recent report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on the state of prisons in India underlines the dysfunctional state of the country’s jails. Year after year, dry statistical tables, which barely make it to the media, paint a grim picture of official neglect and personal tragedy in our 1401 prisons.

The NCRB’s most recent figures found India’s 1401 jails held 419,623 prisoners when the countrywide capacity was 366,781. CHRI’s analysis of state-by-state numbers is even more alarming; some state prisons house twice as many prisoners as they can hold and a number with 500% occupancy. Further, a prisoner dies every five and a half hours which highlights the neglect, violence and personal tragedy behind prison walls.

The valuable and extensive data and information about conditions in prisons tell a larger, grimmer story – they go directly to the heart of a space that is, for many Indians, an area of darkness.
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