The Supreme Court advised the government on March 27, 2018 to allocate social service duties to criminals sentenced to imprisonment for six months or a year, rather than putting them in already overflowing prisons.
The suggestion came from Justice Deepak Gupta, who is part of a bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur, after the court’s amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal submitted that 240 jails across the country are housing 150 percent more inmates than their normal capacity.
Inappropriate prison staff-prisoner ratio
The worst part is the prison staff-prisoner ratio. Out of 77,000 sanctioned posts for prison staff, 24,500 lie vacant. Tamil Nadu and UP are the worst cases in prison staff-inmate ratio.
There are only about 5,000 prison staff monitor over 92,000 inmates in Uttar Pradesh. While, Tamil Nadu has about 4,000 prison staffers to monitor 13,000 prisoners.
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Inconsistent jails for women
There are 18 jails in India which are exclusively for women inmates. Moreover, there are separate areas for women in other jails.
But these jails are not modelled to house women inmates, especially those with minor children.
Plight of undertrial prisoners
The apex court also acknowledged the plight of undertrial prisoners who suffer behind the bars. It noted that 60 percent of those arrested need not be actually arrested.
Of this 60 percent, half of them need not be remanded, but they are still remanded.
The court was hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.
On September 15, 2017, the Supreme Court encouraged the need for open prisons. It urged for steps like the appointment of counsellors and support persons for prisoners, more family visits for prisoners and use of video-conferencing not only between a prisoner and family, but also his lawyers.
It also directed the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) to conduct a performance audit of prisons and asked the government to constitute a Board of Visitors to initiate prison reforms.
What: Directed by SC
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