Yes, criminals deserve a punishment, they should not be set free and must be subjected to some penalties, but do they really deserve to be subjected to the inhumane and abhorrent conditions of the Indian prisons. It had been found out from the interviews of various inmates that the cells of the Indian prisons are overcrowded, unstaffed, dirty and depressing, but hardly anybody talks about it, because usually the people who have to bare the brunt of the prisons are the economically backward class people, who hardly have a say in the country. A 46-year-old woman narrates her experiences and tells how horrified she was to see splotches of blood on the ground, dirty cells and how for any complaint she made she got snubbed and was told that “it’s a prison and not a hotel.”
Prisons can also be taken as the best example to define social inequality and discrimination, since all the rich get away with the atrocious conditions of the prison by bribing the officers and the guards and bend the rules according to their whims and fancies. The inmates have confirmed this that the prison is almost divided into two categories; one for the privileged and the other for the non-privileged people.
The victims of such atrocities are usually the poor people caught for minor offenses, leaving them helpless, without any legal representatives and financial support. Thus, I would like to take this opportunity to throw light on the worsening conditions of the Indian prisons.
The jeopardized legal system has rendered a lot of undertrials hopeless and helpless as they lose most of their crucial years of life in prison, waiting for a judgement to be passed which would eventually decide the course of their lives. Lack of legal aid and legal awareness amongst the poor is the main reason for their sufferings, as once they re locked up, they have no clue about the status of their cases, are usually barred from meeting their lawyers and receiving the basic aids they are entitled to.
According to the provisions of the constitution, any accused until proven guilty is considered to be innocent, however, this does not seem to be happening in the present scenario as the undertrials are subjected to psychological and physical torture during their detention period. They end up losing ties from their families and communities, lose their jobs and have no scope of living a normal life again. Thus, prisons have eventually become an inescapable abyss where the innocent has no voice and the world just mercilessly closes their doors for them. A 22-year-old boy from the slums of Mumbai had been in the prison for three months, without even committing that crime, however, the miseries for him do not end here because the long and cumbersome process of bail and acquittal would deprive him of another coupe of months or years of his free life.
It has been observed that the detentions and imprisonment has clearly failed to change a person’s life and most of them fallback into such illegal activities after they are released. This is mainly due to the dehumanizing effect that the prisoners have on them during their detention, neither is there any skill -based development which would channel their lives once they are out, nor do they succeed in maintaining a proper a psychological balance of the prisoner, they usually fall prey to depression, low self-esteem and panic attacks. Most of the prisons do not provide comprehensive study material and get so tired in the physical exercises that they get no time to polish their skills.
The prisons have become a breeding center of diseases and rat plagues, due to unhygienic cell conditions with low ventilation and over accommodation. They are not entitled to proper meals and clothing, have little access to any medical help with poor sanitary conditions. The inmates of the prison barely feel human in there and are scarred with the harshness of the prison forever.
Along with being harsh, the prison conditions are also quite unjust and exploitative, where the guards are rude and torturous to some, while quite facilitating to all the big shots and rich people. The women there continuously fall prey to molestation and assault but are unable to take any action as all their rights seems to be curbed there.
Prisons are a still a hub to gambling, liquor, mobile phones and weapons, all that is required to access is to grease the hands of the officials with money. The politicians, celebrities and all the high -profile people face no difficulties in the prison as they are bestowed with good food and all the luxury, are excused from the daily chores and live lavishly, whereas the socio-economically challenged class has to struggle for even the most basic amenities and dignity in the prison.
Digging deeper into the facts, it is seen that the Supreme Court did pay attention to this situation and gave a three -point judgement regarding it:
- Firstly, that a person does not become a ‘non-person’.
- Secondly, he/she like any other citizen of the country is entitled to all the rights, except adhering to certain limitation imposed due to imprisonment.
- Thirdly, there can be no justification for aggravating the suffering already inherent in the process of incarceration.
However, the question that arises here is how far has such rules been implemented and have we really bothered to peek into the lives of the prisoners or put in efforts to voice out their grievances. The entire point of such judgements gets defeated if they lack implementation and so is the case of Indian prisons. According to the statistics, the prisons are still overcrowded by an estimated percentage of 28 with 2,38,657 being under trial with the total of all-India prisoners being 3,64,081.
Our country is in a dire need of a robust framework for the Whistleblower Protection Act and bringing in certain structural changes in the prisons, in order to throw light on the ground reality of the prisons. Its high time that the truth about the unjust treatment to the convicts, the unconstitutional methods of investigation and detention grabbed people’s attention and the rights of the prisoners actually became an acceptable concept.
Another grave issue that needs immediate attention is the concept of solitary confinement and till what extent is it morally and judicially correct to be implemented. It has proven to be one of the worst types of punishments where the prisoner usually loses his/her mental balance, face severe health issues and their entire lives goes in shambles because of it. The idleness detriments the stability of their mind, the loneliness effects their hormonal balance and they are reduced o such a state from where they can not cope with the normal life and interactions, anymore. It is a complete violation of one’s human rights and dignity as well as simply cruel to deprive someone the liberty to life, which is a beautiful gift given by god to every individual.
Some of the very courageous people have made the efforts to describe the brutal conditions of the prisons and share their horrific experiences with the public. They anonymously share the information with the nation and highlight the discrimination the unprivileged prisoners go through, the unconstitutional methods of torture that are inflicted on them, along with all the traumatic details of the hell like prisons. Quora has been one of the greatest platforms where people have taken up the onus to share their experiences and fight for their rights.
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