Indian jails overflowing with prisoners (Comment: Special to IANS
The annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says that the average overcrowding rate in Indian prisons is 14 per cent. What the report does not reveal is that 149 jails in the country are overcrowded by more than 100 per cent and that eight are overcrowded by margins of a staggering 500 per cent.
These alarming statistics were revealed in the Centre's reply in response to a question in the Lok Sabha on August 8. It also brought into focus the horrendous levels in Satyamangalam sub-jail in Erode district of Tamil Nadu where 200 prisoners are "stuffed" in a space meant for 16 people. The overcrowding rate actually oversimplifies an understanding of the problem. What this statistic fails to capture is the feeling of being stuck in a dark, dingy enclosed area where privacy is non-existent, where threats of bodily violations constantly loom, where money and power determines the floor space you get to stretch your legs, where the entry of "more guests" implies the quality and quantity of food and sanitation would further suffer. Prisoners in India are usually housed together in mega dormitories, where inmates are kept in close proximity with little regard for dignity and basic living conditions. This is a far cry from the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which suggest that prison accommodation shall be mindful of "minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation".