Ever given any thought to ‘right to space’ of prisoners in jails? It’s time we did, for most jails in the country have been unable to ensure sufficient space for their inmates! According to the 2012 figures of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the occupancy rate for all the jails across 28 states and seven Union territories (UTs) of India was an uncomfortable 112.2%. Against the total space of 3,43,169 prisoners, 3,85,135 prisoners are lodged in different jails across India.
This means that on an average at least 112 are accommodated in space meant for 100 prisoners. In the corresponding period, in Gujarat, the figure was 94.8%, indicating availability of space. And, this has only improved over the last one year. As per prison inmate statistics released by the state prisons department till November 1, 2013, the occupancy rate of Gujarat jails is 93.02%, or overcrowding rate of -6.97%.
Going by individual figures, jails of 17 states and UTs in the country are overcrowded. This problem arises due to heavy inflow of prisoners against limited accommodation capacity and has been long standing, not only in India, but also in some western countries. Implications of such a situation include poor hygiene conditions on the jail premises, additional burden on the staff, chances of mismanagement, etc.
Gujarat is better off in this respect, thanks to effective steps taken by the central jail authorities in the last couple of years. Not just prisoners, but even jail staff members are finding the ‘work place’ far more manageable.
As per figures from the state prisons department, jail overcrowding ratio in the state now runs in negative.
Against the combined capacity of 12,318 inmates, the 26 jails in state have 11,459 inmates at present, indicating an overcrowding rate of -6.97%.
PC Thakur, state director general of police (DGP) as well as additional DGP of prisons, is pleased with the figures. “Gujarat has become the first state in India to have under-crowded jails. If you look at the figures, this was not the case 10 years ago. During 2002 -2003, our jails were highly overcrowded. In 2013, our overcrowding rate is -6.97%, which is quite remarkable” said Thakur, who was instrumental in bringing this change.
Since the negative ratio is based on the cumulative total of all the 26 prisons, not every jail is technically ‘under-crowded’. As per the central authority figures, as many as 14 jails of the state are under-crowded and have negative rate of occupancy. The remaining 12 are more or less overcrowded. However, even this is good news as the overcrowding has gone down at these jails.
Among these is Ahmedabad central prison, which is still overcrowded by 1.89%. Against the authorised capacity of 2,586, the central jail houses 2,635 inmates, including convicts, under-trials and detainees. However, against the 40% figure 10 years ago, this definitely seems much better.
Similarly, Vadodara central prison shows 38% overcrowding, down from almost 90% during 2002.
As per the figures, three of the most under-crowded prisons include Amreli open jail with -77.5%, Rajpipla sub-jail with -64.89% and the newly inaugurated Patan sub-jail with -58.91%.
Junagadh district prison with 66.04%, Surendranagar sub-jail with 60% and Vadodara central prison with 38.87% overcrowding are among the most overcrowded ones.
How it was achieved...
According to DGP PC Thakur, who is also ADGP (prisons) swapping of prisoners from one jail to another was the key to control crowding. He also said that huge space could be created if many prisoners jailed for petty offences got bail.
“We have made our calculations and tried to balance the number at overcrowded jails by sending inmates to under-crowded ones. We have also involved NGOs and law students to help prisoners jailed for petty offences get bail. We learnt that many languish in jails as they do not know how to apply or don’t have the money,” he said.