9th and 10th November, 2013
Venue: Indian Institute of Training and Development (IITD), Kolkata
Overcrowding, lack of adequate medical care, physical mistreatment of prisoners resulting in custodial deaths, inadequate conditions for female and juvenile detainees, poor administration, long detention of those awaiting trial, and inadequate opportunities for prisoners to communicate with counsel, administrators, and family are some of the plaguing problems inside the jails. The intolerable conditions of prisons compound the misery of prisoners. Out of the whole prison population only 20% prisoners are convicts, while the rest are under-trials. Thousands of poor persons including Muslims, women and juveniles languish in the jails and police lockups, without due process of law.
The 2011 report of the National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, reports overcrowding in a large majority of jails, some operating at over 200 percent of their available capacity, with undertrials accounting for up to two-thirds of the prison population. The central jails are overcrowded by 118.6 percent, while the district jails are overcrowded by 126.9 percent. Amongst the maximum number of overcrowding in jails West Bengal jails ranks 6th (Prison Statics India, 2011, National Crime Record Bureau: i) with the highest number of undertrials languishing in different jails of West Bengal.
Women with children and the mentally ill are among the worst-affected groups. According to available statistics, 1,400 children younger than five are accompanying their mothers in jails.
The absence of adequate medical care and psychiatric services, contributes to the deplorable conditions. Individuals with severe mental illnesses, branded as “non-criminal lunatics,” are often imprisoned. With many mentally vulnerable prisoners left to suffer without support in a brutal environment, there is a high rate of suicides of prison inmates and police detainees.