Special Articles / Juliet / Scientific Writing and Publishing in Social Work
Prison Statistics India (2011), is a ‘wake up’ call to Indian society, to promote effective intervention strategies to work with people who have committed crimes and persons who are victims of crime. According to the 2011 report, the number of convicted prisoners has increased marginally by 2.2 per cent (1,28,592 over 1,25,789 in 2010) and the number of under-trial prisoners has increased by 0.5 per cent (2,41,200) in 2011. The number of persons convicted under an Attempt to Murder has increased sharply by 23.2 per cent and the number of under-trial prisoners under Attempt to Murder charge increased by 3.0 per cent in 2011. The number of persons convicted under Rape charges increased by 2.6 per cent in 2011. On the other hand, the number of persons convicted under Murder charges increased by 2.9 per cent in 2010 and decreased by 2.3 per cent in 2011 and the number of under-trial prisoners under Murder charges increased by 3.1 per cent in 2010 and decreased by 0.3 per cent in 2011 indicating a decreasing trend in murder cases in 2011. However, the overall rising crime rate places before the whole of Indian society the emerging need for effective crime control and promotion of a secure society.
“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind”, said Mahatma Gandhi. Violence and crime, be it at a personal or organised level, or at a group, national, or international level, have been perceived differently at different historical periods. With the developments that have taken place in behavioural sciences, efforts have been made to understand the offender involved in a criminal act from his/her socio-economic, physical and psychological contexts, focusing on the ‘person behind the crime’ rather than just the ‘act or crime’. Efforts are also made to understand the impact of the crime upon the victims, their families and neighbourhoods and to ensure justice to the victimised. Such changing perceptions have brought forth a different perspective on the understanding of the term, ‘punishment’ where a shift in emphasis is observed from retributive and deterrent approaches towards reformative and rehabilitative approaches.
I. Prisons – An Overview
Prisons are at the tail end of the criminal justice system. The understanding of the term ‘prison’ has also undergone changes from ‘places of detention’ to ‘places for punishment’ to ‘places for reform and rehabilitation’. Raghavan (2011) observes a gradual policy change away from torture and debilitating forms of punishment to imprisonment as (and not for) punishment, more humane custodial conditions and finally a focus on retraining and rehabilitation. The question here is, ‘Are prisons places for reform, retraining and rehabilitation?’ This article looks into some facts that are revealed from a few studies and interventions undertaken in India in recent years, which reveal conditions prevailing in prisons.
1.1 Definition of Prison
The Oxford dictionary states that a prison is “a place properly arranged and equipped for the reception of persons who by legal process are committed to it for a safe custody while awaiting trial or punishment”.
The Prisons Act, 1894 (Act IX of 1894, as modified on1st January, 1957) defines a prison as follows:”Prison” means any jail or place used permanently or temporarily under the general or special orders of a State Government for the detention of prisoners, and includes all lands and buildings appurtenant thereto, but does not include--
(a) any place for the confinement of prisoners who are exclusively in the custody of the police;
(b) any place specially appointed by the State Government under section 541 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1882; or
(c) any place which has been declared by the State Government, by general or special order, to be a subsidiary jail”
Originally, unlike today, punishment was not just imprisonment. Death by hanging, beheading and drowning in the sack, exile, forced labour, crucifixion, asphyxiation (strangulation), burning at the stake, boiling to death, dismemberment, drowning, burial alive, animal-related methods, skinning, starvation and so on were the usual punishments in earlier days. In 1757, Robert Francois Damien’s suffered horrible but customary execution for his attempted regicide of King Louis XV of France. His hand was burnt, body wounded, molten lead and metals poured into the wounds, the body was quartered and then burnt at the stake. Could such tortures and cruel punishments reduce crime? Ifso would there be any more crime in this world? Are countries able to tackle the root causes of crime, beginning with self-concept, self-confidence,self-esteem and weak/insecure family relations of the offender on the one hand and the unjust socio-economic structures on the other, that lead to crime?
II. Physical and Psychological Environment of Prisons in India
2.1 Physical Environment
An attempt is made to probe into some of the aspects of the physical environment of prisons in India, which can give us an indication as to their ability to facilitate prisoner reform.
2.1.1 Architecture of the Building
One of the main objectives of imprisonment is to curtail the liberty of movement and the freedom of initiative of an offender. With the resultant need for segregation of offenders from society and the obligation of prison officials to restrain their movement and prevent their escape from lawful custody, the architects of prison buildings designed them with high walls, narrow galleries, shutters, locks, chains, fetters, cells and places of solitary confinement. This physical structure of prisons creates secrecy, an atmosphere in which fundamental human rights could be unofficially violated and officially denied. Even in the prison visiting system corruption and manipulation happens. The double netted visiting rooms still prevail in many prisons which prevent the satisfaction of seeing prisoners.
NingthiMangsatabam, of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, (2004) speaks about his personal experience of a visiting a prison, in an article, ‘Indian Prisons - Rhetoric and Reality’ in The Hindu, April 20, 2004. “During my recent visit to a prison, I saw what I had never expected to see. Even though the building stood fortified, it did ask for much do-up. The pillars were old enough to have seen four generations of prisoners. The barracks looked unkempt and least maintained. One single cell housed three times the capacity making it too uncomfortable for the inmates to even move about, apart from the fact that they slept in shifts. Those small coops, called cells, contained people from all walks of crime — petty thieves, murderers, bride burners, scammers, anti-socials and a whole lot of under trials. Such situations still prevail in some of the prisons.
The Report on ‘Prison Reforms’ with Special reference to Karnataka by theCommonwealth Human Rights Initiative (2010) reveals that the importance of location and the maintenance of the prison buildings cannot be overemphasised. Many of the older prisons in the state were originally located on the outskirts of the towns and cities, but with the expansion of those towns, the prisons have now become central to the towns and cities. However, even today the older prisons at Gulbarga, Belgaum, Dharwad, Gadag and Shimoga remain on the outskirts and the same policy is being continued in the construction of new prisons at Madikeri, Tumkur and Haveri.
The Model Prison Manual of 2003 drafted by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) lays down certain criteria for the selection of prison locations. The nature of prison functions and the availability of communication and other institutional supports are some of the most important elements. However governments not only in Karnataka, but also in other states have disregarded these suggestions in practice.
The present technological mode of control and supervision such as installation of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) could be considered as an initiative towards greater transparency. Various reforms have taken place in the form of community linkages, prison visiting system and open air prisons. Efforts are needed to strengthen and popularise such reforms and facilitate their implementation in an effective manner.
2.1.2 Overcrowding in Prisons
As indicated in the Prison Statistics India(2011), the occupancy rate of an Indian prison was found to be 122.8 percent. However, according to the Bangalore Prison Mental Health study, conducted at ParappanaAgrahara Central prisonby Bada Math, Suresh et al (2011), Bangalore Prison had5024 prisoners with 5200 prisoners being housed during the years 2008-2009 when the study was conducted which is against the approved capacity of 2100 and indicatesa 248 per cent occupancy rate. Bangalore Prison’s inhuman environment prohibits privacy and sufficient personal space which might add to the stress and frustration of the inmates, rather than providing them time for introspection, reflection and positive thinking.
The situation is no different even in women’s prisons. A study conducted by Prayas, a non-government organisation working with women prisoners revealed that most women perceived overcrowding as a major problem(Sanyal, Subhashree, 2011). The lengthy deportation procedures and ignorance about the causes of prolonged incarceration drastically reduce speedy trials.
Table 1 clearly indicates that overcrowding is a major problem in District Jails and Central Jails. This could be because of the increasing number of under-trials and hence measures need to be taken for speedy trials which can be a means to decongest jails.
2.1.3 Health Care Facilities
Health care is provided largely through the prison hospital located in the prison premises in central prisons. In other categories of jails, it is the visiting medical officer who attends to the medical needs of prisoners and in emergencies;they are also admitted to government hospitals.
Bada Math, Suresh et al (2011) observe that at the Bangalore Central Prison there was only one psychiatrist for the entire prison housing over 5000 prisoners. Apart from this, the prison hospital had only 3 doctors (one physician, one dermatologist, one ophthalmologist) and 1 staff nurse, one lab technician, one x-ray technician and 2 pharmacists. They also run an in-patient service with 100 beds (this facility is usually overflowing with about 250 patients at any given time), provide health reports in response to court orders, co-ordinate medical re-transfers across the prisons in the state, and provide emergency cover as needed. Thus, the ratio of medical doctors to patients was 1: 1300 at the time of the study.
Overcrowding results in poor health and hygiene either due to easy spread of contagious diseases or due to insufficient resources to meet the needs of excess number of persons. Bada, Suresh(2011) reports that self-report of health problems was very low in Bangalore central prison. The commonest problems reported were back or neck problems (16%), arthritis (14.7%), digestive disorders (13%) and skin disease (10.5%). However, data from the prison hospital suggests that there were between 4500 to 7000 consultations each month, and the most common consultations were for skin diseases (40%), and gastrointestinal problems (20%). HIV seropositivity in 2008 was 3% which is much higher than seroprevalence figures for Karnataka at 0.69 per cent (National Family Health Survey, 2005-2006).
Spontaneous self-report of mental illness was as low as 2% while as per a psychiatric diagnosis, 4002 (79.6 per cent) individuals could be diagnosed as having a diagnosis of either mental illness or substance use problem.
Though only 3.6 per cent of the prisoners self-reported a history of high blood pressure, on recording of blood pressure, 20.5 per cent were found to be hypertensive, thus increasing hypertension detection rates by five times.
Only 196 respondents (3.9%) reported taking medication regularly at the time of interview. Only 13 of them were able to mention what medicines they were taking.
The findings of this study thus point towards the lack of sufficient health care personnel in prisons as well as the lack of awareness among the prisoners about their own physical and mental health status, which further implies the lesser potential for rehabilitation.
2.1.4 Sanitation Facilities
The Times of India, Chennai, 8th March, 2011 in an article on ‘Ex-women prisoners Say Conditions Bad, Inmates Tortured’ unearths the lack of basic sanitation facilities in a sub-jail. One prisoner, who had been lodged in the Nilakottai sub-jail for robbery, and another, who had been arrested by the police for illicit brewing of liquor said that four to eight prisoners were crammed into a cell and they were forced to use a small corner as their toilet, without even a curtain to provide them privacy. According to the report of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, 2010, the prison hospital at Belgaum had no proper toilets and the rooms were filthy, with insects crawling on the roofs and walls.
2.1.5 Linkage with the world Outside
The first comprehensive work of studying prison conditions and makingrecommendations for the reformation of both prisons and prisoners was done by the Indian Jails Committee, 1919-20 under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander G. Cardew, ICS, Member of the Executive Council, Madras, with six distinguished members. This Committee devoted a whole chapter (Chapter XXVIII) to the improvement in the system of visitors of prisons. This was an important step towards opening prisons to the community and, thus, reducingthe secrecy which can lead to violations of human rights.
Addressing the need for external supervision of prisons through official and non-official visitors, the Committee wrote: “In the first place, it insures the existence of a body of free and unbiased observers, whose visits serve as a guarantee to the Government and to the public, that the rules of the Prisons Act and Prison Manuals are duly observed, and that abuses, if they were to spring up, would be speedily brought to light. In this respect the Indian system is, we think, superior to that followed in other countries where the visitors become a part of the prison organization, with definite powers and duties, and so become more or less identified with the prison administration. In India, they remain impartial and independent. In the second place, the existence of non-official visitors is especially valuable as supplying a training ground where members of the public can obtain an insight into jail problems and learn to take an interest in prisons and prisoners” (Report of the Indian Jails Committee, 1919-20, para: 511).
2.1.6 Recreational Facilities
Recreational facilities provide scope for activity and prevention of negative and anxiety provoking thoughts and are necessary for the imprisoned individuals so that they do not remain stagnant. Facilities for indoor games are provided in most of the jails; yet these cannot be considered substitutes for outdoor games which give adequate physical exercise for persons imprisoned. Libraries need to be updated with recreational as well as thought provoking books and newspapers. Reading value based stories and novels can itself have a transforming effect upon individuals. Organised social and educational games conducted by social workers for selected groups as well as use of audio-visual media, organised cultural programmes, yoga, music therapy, physical exercises will also contribute to progressive change in individuals.
2.1.7 Facilities for Women
According to the Prison Statistics Report 2011, women inmates constitute 4.3 per cent of the total inmate population in the country. As many as 383 women convicts with their 440 children and 1,177 women under-trials with their 1,289 children were reported to be in prisons in the country at the end of 2011 (Prison statistics).
According to ParwiniZora (2005), among the prisoners, the worst-affected groups are women with children and the mentally ill. Female prisoners are allowed to keep their children until they reach the age of six.
In 2004, the Pakistan-based Dawn news site quoted Zahira, a mother of two and woman prisoner in the Tihar prison, as saying, “Our fate depends on the mood of the wardens or medical officer. I didn’t have regular check-ups during my pregnancy, which is against the rules. Irfan (her infant son) was not weighed at birth. There are no cribs, baby food or warm milk.”
Social customs make women ex-offenders more vulnerable to suspicion and rejection. They are always looked down upon by everyone — their family members, the prison staff, as well as society. Many of them are confined as under-trials for want of a surety. Being deprived of formal education and lacking legal awareness, they are often given unduly long detentions.
2.2 Psychological Environment of Prisons
2.2.1 Socio-economic situation of prisoners
According to Prison Statistics India 2011, out of 128,592 convicted inmates, the majority of inmates are either non-literate (37,912 - 28.92 per cent) or education below class X (57,098 - 44.4 per cent). The finding indicates that 73.32 per cent of the prison population have had only a basic level of education or were not provided with opportunities for formal education.
The study by Bada Math, Suresh et al (2011) reveals that a majority of the prisoners are denied adequate socio-economic opportunities. Nearly one in four (23.4 per cent) of the convict prisoners at the time of the study in the Bangalore Prison, was illiterate. Further, only 15 per cent of both Under Trial and Convict prisoners were educated at pre-university or higher, implying 61.6 per cent of them have had only a school level of education. A majority of the prisoners thus, have had less opportunity for growth and development which once again highlights the need for strengthening the educational programmes at the community level as a preventive measure as well as a rehabilitative programme in the prison.
A third of the under trial prisoners (33.5 per cent) and a higher proportion of convict prisoners (44.4 per cent) reported family incomes below Rs. 3000/- per month. Poverty is an issue to be tackled in the country. Efforts need to be made to ensure that the poverty alleviation programmes reach the deserving population. Further, vocational training with stipend or packages such as ‘earn while learn’, as well as income generating programmes must be initiated. Also, poor family background along with the effects of imprisonment leaves the psychological environment of a prisoner dull and difficult.
2.2.2 Anxiety and related depressant feelings
Anxiety is a predominant psychologicalcondition that we come across when we enter the prison. This is strongly felt among the undertrials whose future remains uncertain till the sentence is pronounced.
The causes of anxiety among undertrials range from uncertainty regarding his or her own future life, fear of prison officials, fear of living with persons in conflict with the law who are strangers to him/her, tension about the financial burden for legal procedures, tension about the situation of family members particularly the dependants, guilt about the offence and so on, which require the intervention of a professional counsellor for effective handling.
Another major cause for anxiety is incidences of torture in prisons and police stations. Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, “Torture in India 2011”, stated that a total of 14,231 persons, that is, more than four persons per day died in police and judicial custody in India from 2001 to 2010. This includes 1,504 deaths in police custody and 12,727 deaths in judicial custody from 2001-2002 to 2009-2010 as per the cases submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (Panthic.org, 2011).
On the whole, the above facts reveal the causative factors that make a prisoner anxious and stressed during imprisonment. A place for treatment cannot serve its purpose if an atmosphere of fear and anxiety prevails. Trained counsellors and social workers who can deal with the personal, family related and prison environment related stress are required for effective rehabilitation. However, very few prisons have welfare officers who could deal with these issues and still fewer prisons have appointed counsellors in accordance with the proportion required.
2.2.3 Social Relations
The effects of incarceration on the inmate’s ties with the outside world need to be focussed on. According to Norman Holt, Associate Social Research Analyst, Southern Conservation Centre and Donald Miller, Associate Social Research Analyst, Los Angeles, Research Division, California Department of Corrections (1972) , there are three processes through which the inmate’s prior criminal involvement serves to erode social relationships even before his prison term begins, (1) the stigma associated with his crimes leads to ostracism, (2) he wears out his friends and relations by making repeated demands on their resources as he is arrested and tried for crimes, and (3) his lengthy involvement in certain, types of crimes often includes family and friends among the victims.Efforts need to be made to bridge the gap in social relationships through dialogues withpersons concerned that onceagain demand the time and expertise of professionals such as counsellors and social workers.
2.2.4 Substance abuse
Bada Math, Suresh et al (2011) during their study of Bangalore Central Prison found that more than one in two prisoners (51.5%) reported consuming alcohol in their lives. This is nearly double the national prevalence of alcohol use (21%).
A majority 67.3% of the prison population reported ever using (lifetime) tobacco in some form in their lives. This is more than double the tobacco use prevalence in Karnataka (29.6% - figure for 2001).
Generalising the findings among resident prisoners, urine testing revealed extraordinarily high levels of drug use (61.3%) compared to self-report (1.5%). The custodial function of prison is evidently weak according to these findings and the question remains how these materials could find entry into a high security institution and once again how effective are the rehabilitation measures undertaken.
Bada Math, Suresh et al (2011) have observed that among substance users, 85 per cent of smokers, 73 per cent of tobacco chewers, 99 per cent of alcohol users and 71 per cent of drug users, expressed the need for help in being able to give up using these substances. This indicates the formability and the potential for counselling and de-addiction programmes in prisons, provided that they facilitate the desire and the will among prisoners to move towards willingness and self-determination.
Bajpai(2006, p.50) presents Situational Crime Prevention(SCP) which comprises measures to reduce the opportunity for crime such as target hardening, access control, deflecting offenders, controlling facilitators, entry/exit screening, formal surveillance, surveillance by employees, natural surveillance, target removal, identifying properties, denying benefits, reducing frustration and stress and other situational measures. Many of these can be of use in reducing drug abuse. The author has also spoken about disrupting local drug markets and enhancing community control in acting against drug misuse.
2.2.6 Prison Administration
The prisons have a staff strength of 40,886 jail officials to take care of 372,926 inmates which amounts to 1 Jail Official per 9 inmates (Prison Statistics, 2011). Though the staff inmate ratio is found to be adequate, the question remains how many among them are specifically trained and qualified to facilitate the rehabilitation process. The highest number of inmates per prison staff was reported from Bihar (18) followed by Jharkhand (15), Chhattisgarh (14), Uttar Pradesh (12) and Gujarat (10).
Training of prison staff is a significant factor that can contribute towards the reform and rehabilitation of prisoners. In 2011, 4,629 jail officials (1,433 Officers and 3,095 Staff) had attended various training programmes.
Bedi, Kiran (2003) narrates her experiments at restating the objectives of Police training The objectives focussed on physical endurance and quick reflexes, professional knowledge with application skills, evolving and participatory training and sensitivity of mind and character building. The introduction of human values, meditation and yoga, as per the findings of the research conducted by academics, Khurana et.al, had resulted in a change in the prison officials. There was reduced anger, anxiety, tension, jealousy and greed as well as increased fellow feelings, desire to do good, better understanding of societal values, norms and relations, spiritual feelings and improved health. Similarly, research by Sreekumar of Delhi University observes an increased capacity to work hard and handle responsibilities among the police officials who underwent the revised training model. Their perception of themselves too changed from that of Mr Right and authoritarian to that of service to the society.
2.2.7 Gender Mainstreaming in Prison Administration
Women constitute 4.3 per cent of the total prison population. However, only 1.37 per cent of the total capacity of prisons is allotted to female prisoners. There are 19 prisons allotted as women jails. Female prisoners require differential services, particularly those who have young children with them in the prison, pregnant women and lactating mothers. As many as 383 women convicts with their 440 children and 1,177 Women undertrials with their 1,289 children were reported to be in prisons in the country at the end of 2011.
There is a need to sensitize the prison staff, particularly the women police constables towards the special needs of women prisoners, particularly the lactating mothers and pregnant women. Many times women’s sections do not have adequate daily services. As per the study conducted by Sanyal, Subhashree, though food, health care and shelter are provided, the quality of these services is debatable implying the gap in the delivery of services. Prisoners have also expressed the need for legal aid and counselling services. The respondents who were women prisoners were dissatisfied with the abusive and humiliating treatment given by Women Police Constables and even suggested male constables would have treated them with better respect (Sanyal, Subhashree, 2011).
2.2.8 Justice delayed
MachangLalung, aged 77, was released from incarceration in the northeast Indian state of Assam after spending more than half a century (54 years) behind bars awaiting trial (ParwiniZora, 2005). Lalung had been arrested at his home village of Silsang in 1951 under section 326 of the Indian Penal Code for “causing grievous harm.” Those found guilty of this offence receive sentences of no more than 10 years’ imprisonment. According to civil rights groups who have investigated Lalung’s case, there was no substantive evidence to support the charge against him. Less than a year after he was taken into custody, Lalung was transferred to a psychiatric hospital in the Assamese town of Tezpur. Sixteen years later, in 1967, doctors confirmed that he was “fully fit” to be released, but instead he was transferred to Guwahati Central Jail, where he was imprisoned until this summer.
“It seems the police just forgot about him thereafter,” Assamese human rights activist Sanjay Borbora told the BBC. Borbora was among those who brought Machang’s case to the attention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). As a result of the Commission’s intervention and other protests, Lalung’s case was finally heard and he was released after paying a token bond of one Indian rupee.
“He is a simple villager and his life has been destroyed by a cruel system. He should sue the authorities for millions of rupees, but I do not think he is even aware he could do it,” said Borbora.
According to Prison Statistics, 2011, the undertrials constitute the majority of prison population of India, that is, 241,200 (64.7 per cent) out of 372,926 which was the total number of prisoners. Justice delayed is justice denied. The prolonged waiting slowly depletes the opportunities for reform and rehabilitation as the good young years pass by unproductively in the process.
Many a times, the accused are proved to be not guilty and the productive years of a life time get corroded behind the iron bars as in the case of the RSS bomb blast case hearing held at Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) court in Chennai in 1994. All the accused were Muslim youth. According to V. Suresh and Nagasaila, 2011, the Central Bureau of Investigation case rested only on the confessions of the accused. Although according to TADA law,confessions to police officers was admissible as evidence, Kannabiran who was the lawyer defending the causes of the accused, challenged the confessions as being coerced. He argued that the conspiracy charge was concocted to implicate Muslims who were being projected as anti-national. In 2010, the Supreme Court declared that the confessions were obtained under coercion and the accused were set free 17 precious years after their arrest!
2.2.9Training and Earning
Many central prisons provide training and earning opportunities for the convicts which enhances the opportunities for rehabilitation. However, as per the Prison Statistics India - 2011, it was found that only a total of 43,317 out of 372,926 (11.62 per cent) inmates were trained during the year 2011. Maximum number of training (4,427) was imparted in Weaving followed by Carpentry (3,833), Tailoring (3,406), Agriculture (2,538) and Handloom (797).
2.2.10 Legal Aid
The very fact that a majority of the prisoners are from poor socio-economic backgrounds, reveals the need for legal aid for prisoners. The case study given below by Sr. Sheeba Jose(October, 2012) substantiates this need.
“Sunil Kr. Thapa is a Nepali boy and was in Gorakpur jail for three years and thereafter in Bareily Jail. The accusation onThapa was murder and attempt to murder. Thapa was working for a landlord who had five sons. The landlorddivided his property among the sons and one son did not get any share. Sunil Thapa worked for only 5 days for him and to his illfate the landlord was murdered during that time. An FIR was filed in the name of the 5th son and Thapa. The son of the landlord was completely acquitted but Thapa got life imprisonment.” Thapabelonged to a very poor family and had no one in his family except his mother. He was only 16 years when he was imprisoned. There was no source of income to appoint a lawyer to bail him out or to file an appeal. After 17 years of imprisonment his case was filed through Sr. Sheeba Jose in 2011 and in 2012 he was bailed out. Sr. Sheeba Jose had also located 1000 children in the jails of Uttar Pradesh. These findings indicate the need for legal literacy and legal aid programmes in jails, particularly for the poor and the voiceless.
Needs of Resident Prisoners
Needs of prisonerswere identified by Bada Math, Suresh et al (2011), wherein the major areas of dissatisfaction were with the cleanliness (33%-44%), access to safe drinking water (38%), quantity (25%) and quality of food (59%) and with the visiting facilities (21%). One in two prisoners (50%) felt they were not treated with respect by the staff. More than a third (34%) found it difficult to access health care. Most prisoners (90.3%) did not attend any form of rehabilitation or occupational therapy. One in five prisoners (22%) was not aware of the legal charge against them. A majority (70%) did not get escorts to attend court proceedings regularly and just over half (51%) were unhappy with the pace of legal proceedings.
Various committees, commissions and groups have been constituted by the State Governments as well as the Government of India, from time to timeto study and make suggestions for improving the prison conditions and administration of Indian prisons to facilitate prisoner reformation and rehabilitation. Some of these include the Pakawasa Committee (1949), W. C. Reckless Committee (1951), Justice A.N. Mulla (Retd.) (1980), R.K. Kapoor Committee (1986) and Justice Krishna Iyer Committee (1987) Further than this, various Supreme Court judgments have led to changes in the said areas. We, particularlythose engaged in correctional services; need to change our perspective. The three broad principles laid down by the Supreme Court will be of paramount utility in this regard. Firstly, a person in prison does not become a non-person; secondly, a person in prison is entitled to all human rights within the limitations of imprisonment; and, lastly there is no justification for aggravating the suffering already inherent in the process of incarceration (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2009).
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