A parliamentary panel has observed that overcrowding in jails and delayed justice have become a pressing concern, leading to a series of consequences for both the prisoners and the criminal justice system as a whole.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by BJP MP Brijlal, also recommended that special attention should be given to pregnant women on the line of a judgement of the Supreme Court where it was observed that a jail must have adequate facilities for prenatal and post-natal care for female prisoners as well as their children.
"The committees, notes that the issue of overcrowding and delayed justice has become a pressing concern, leading to a series of consequences for both the prisoners and the criminal justice system as a whole. The committee recommends that prisoners from overcrowded jails may be transferred to other jails with vacant cells in the same state or other states by signing MoUs to that effect. This kind of an arrangement can be mutual in nature between the states signing the MoU," it observed.
The panel recommended that the babies born in prison be allowed to stay with their mothers until the age of 12 in order to provide a nurturing environment during their early years while ensuring their well-being and development.
According to guidelines, emphasis should be given towards proper care of children relating to food, shelter, medical care, education, and physical growth, it further said. Apart from this, sports and entertainment facilities are also to be provided to these children.
The committee said transgender prisoners are to be provided the same standards of healthcare available to other inmates and should have access to necessary healthcare services without discrimination on the grounds of their gender identity It observed that the overcrowding in Indian prisons has long plagued the country's criminal justice system. Despite various steps to reduce the number of inmates from jails, the total inmates in India stands at 5.54 lakh against the total prison capacity of 4.25 lakh.
The national average occupancy rate in prisons across India is 130.2 per cent and the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana together make up for more than 50 per cent of the total prisoner population in the country.
In four of these six states, the occupancy rate in prisons is more than the national average. Further, the state of Uttarakhand has reported the highest occupancy rate of 185 per cent. Delhi with the highest crime rate in the country of 1479.9 has an occupancy rate of 182 per cent.
The committee observed that the problem of overcrowding in the Indian prisons is mostly because of a very large number of undertrial prisoners. Of all the prisoners in the country, more than 50 per cent being undertrials.
According to the Prison Statistics India 2021 Report prepared by the NCRB, there are 22,918 women inmates. Out of total women prisoners, 1,650 women inmates are with 1,867 children.
The panel observed that women prisoners are more vulnerable than male prisoners. Many of them are incarcerated in common prisons because there are fewer female prisons in India.
Female prisoners are susceptible to various problems like gender discrimination, living in overcrowded jails in unhygienic conditions, custodial rape etc., The fewer number of women jails and low representation of women in prison staff further undermine their conditions and intensify their difficulties, it observed.
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