Women prisoners and their problems
Everyone who is in prison faces so many obstacles, but when it comes to women prisoners we cannot say it in words as they bear so much pain. For the past 15 years, the number of women prisoners is increasing. Not every prisoner is accused of a crime, some are innocents, some are under trial and for some prisoners, and they don’t even know the charge made against them properly. Most women prisoners in India are uneducated, poor, and dependent of husband, sons, or daughters and they have no knowledge of what they did until their counsel come up and say.
Women prisoners lack sanitation, and pre and post-natal care, they are denied basic healthcare facilities and have no proper living arrangements.
During their menstrual periods, they will be so weak, they need utmost care. Most women prisoners are not even getting sanitary napkins, instead, they get pieces of cloth only.
• Living arrangements
They must get proper living arrangements like clean prison rooms, clothing and undergarments, a way for proper disposal of sanitary napkins, clean restrooms and timely food and medical help facilities.
• Pre natal and post natal care
Pregnant women prisoners must be given a special separate accommodation with all medical care. In so many cases, pregnant women are not given a proper medical, as a result of this, after the delivery, children are prone to diseases and the mother fell sick for a long time.
• Medical care
Not only pregnant or aged prisoners, but so many prisoners also don’t get monthly health check-ups, tests and screenings for issues like breast and uterus cancer and all.
• Child care
Until the age of six, children will be with their mothers in prison. But the problem is, after the age of six, children will be sent to childcare institutions, so mothers may not know the children’s well being like how they are growing up without the love and care of a mother.
In the case of women prisoners whose child is out there in their usual place of residence, mothers can decide, with whom her children will be brought up.
• Prison staff and other workers
Wardens, prison officials, staffs, doctors, and other workers are to be transferred regularly, and otherwise, they might involve in corruption or non ethic activities. These people must be available for prisoners and have to take good care of them.
• Labor and wages
In most prisons, wages are not given properly to prisoners irrespective of the effort they make and the work they do. Either prisoners are not doing anything productively or they are not given wages. It is the main problem prisoners face.
Overcrowding in prisons
Overcrowding in prisons lead to think that why there are so many prisoners, why are they inside prisons, did they really commit any offense or are they under trial or they are accused of a crime they did not commit? What is the real reason behind the overcrowding?
The first cause for overcrowding is the increasing of criminal activities and criminals. For the past fifteen years, criminal activities are doubled. Starting from petty crimes like looting, and pickpocketing, to the most heinous crimes like murder and rape, every offense are done by people, even by minors.
The second cause is under-trial prisoners. Under the trial, prisoners are people who are under investigation or suspicion to decide whether they committed a crime or not. Most of the under trials are not even investigated by prison officials and Police persons, so they remain under trial for a lifetime and will die in prison itself for a crime they did not commit.
The third cause is some prisoners are still in prison even after their prescribed punishment period got over. These are the only three reasons why prisons are overcrowded. Overcrowding leads to so many problems like the prisoners won’t get enough space in the room if prison officials accommodate four or five people in room two or three. They will not get basic living arrangements or comfortable space for sleeping and all. Not sleeping regularly or not living in good conditions in prisons will lead to serious mental disorders. Lack of sanitation would raise health issues, for aged people in prison need to be regularly checked.
Overcrowding is an inefficiency of the prison system. Prison officials need to solve this problem and the judiciary must make new directives regarding the importance of opening new prisons for prisoners. But if under trials are properly investigated and released if they did not commit any crime and if the prison officials ensure that no prisoners are still in prison even after their prescribed punishment time, then there will be overcrowding problems.
Juvenile and Adult prison system
There are numerous differences between juvenile and adult prison systems. In adult prisons, prisoners are engaged in labor, while in juvenile even though they are given work, prison officials engage teachers to educate the juvenile to read and write and involve them in physical activities like sports, exercises, and all. In prisons, prisoners will be termed as criminals, but in the juvenile system, juveniles are not termed as criminals, instead, it was considered as delinquent acts. In the juvenile prison system, juveniles are taught about the laws, consequences of the delinquent act they committed, moral classes, and all. But in the adult prison system, in most of cases, these are not taught to prisoners.
Labor system in prison
Why do prisoners need to work in prison? No prisoners are allowed to just be in prison. They are involved in various works and activities so that when they get out of prison they will earn money to look after their family. But labor depends upon the crime he committed. Some prisoners will do hard labor for the heinous crime he committed. When they work in prison, they will be given wages by prison officials, which is funded by the Government of India for well being of prisoners and when they get out of prison. Doing labor will help the prisoners mentally cope up with the prison environment and with other prisoners, they will develop a set of some new skills. But Government and judiciary need to ensure that this labor increases productivity in prisoners as well as the prison department. Because in some districts, there will be a shop that contains only the products made by prisoners. It will be available for sale to the public to buy and use
Prison act, 1984 explains the employment of civil and criminal prisoners.
Section 34 – Employment of civil prisoners
Civil prisoners, with the permission of the superintendent, may do any work or trade or profession. Civil prisoners shall be allowed to receive the whole of their earnings. But the earnings shall be subject to a deduction, and it can be determined by the Superintendent, for the use of implements and the cost of maintenance in prison.
Section 35 – Employment of criminal prisoners
Criminal prisoners sentenced to labor or employed on labor at his own desire shall get permission in writing from the Superintendent and be kept to labor for more than nine hours in any one day. The Medical Officer shall examine the laboring prisoners regularly while they are employed, and shall record the details of examination and weight, and it is subjected to revision of prison officials. When the Medical Officer is of opinion that the health of any prisoner suffers from employment on any kind or class of labor, such prisoner shall not be employed on that labor but shall be placed on such other kind or class of labor as the Medical Officer may consider suited for him.
Section 36 – Employment of criminal prisoners sentenced to simple impris¬onment.
No prisoner not sentenced to rigorous imprisonment shall be punished for neglect of work except by such alteration in the scale of diet as may be established by the rules of the prison in the case of neglect of work by such a prisoner.
Doing labor will help the prisoners mentally cope up with the prison environment and with other prisoners, they will develop a set of some new skills. But Government and judiciary need to ensure that this labor increases productivity in prisoners as well as the prison department. Because in some districts, there will be a shop that contains only the products made by prisoners. It will be available for sale to the public to buy and use.
Open prison means, a prison with minimum security, and less rules compared to prisons, mostly those prisoners have their independent work to do. It is opened with a view to reforming the prisoners. The main objective of open prison is to provide most favorable conditions for the rehabilitation of some selected prisoners as stated in the Nelson Mandela Rules (UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners). Selected prisoners in this open prison means a convict who is in prison for at least five years but has good record of conduct over her period in prison. In these open prisons, prisoners are allowed to go out from their premises after the first roll call and they need to be returned before the second roll call of that day. In these open prisons, prisoners are sometimes allowed to set their own livelihood according to their financial capabilities and to be allowed live with their families. But sometimes, they will refuse to move on from that place, even after the period got over. The cost of maintaining the open prison is so high, the government needs to allocate high funds for maintaining it.
Open prisons are far better than normal prisons. In this open prison chance of reformation of prisoners is so high, when compared to the normal prison system. In this open prison, prisoners earn their livelihood independently according to their financial capabilities, but in usual prisons, prisoners are not getting enough wages for the work they do, they have so many restrictions and conditions which will affect their mental ability and capability. So in the usual prison system, they have no, chance of earning of livelihood which will affect the reintegration of prisoners with society after they leave prison.
Life after prison
The first thing that affects the prisoner after coming out of prison is getting job with a criminal record. No one would dare to give a job for a person who went to prison. So, in these times government is the only one helping hand for him to give him work based on his labor experience in prison. Even if a person learns a new work or any new skill, he must need a platform to show his worthiness. But the criminal record will destroy his future pieces. The second one is reintegration with friends, family and society. It is difficult for them to reconnect with people because people will start rejecting the person who went to prison. Even sometimes his family members and friend would do that, so he will go into a state of depression. Sometimes because of this depression, they will start doing the same things that they did before and will take the wrong path again. So the family members and friends should be with the person and guide him to take a new job, new life, right path and all.
Prisons are not to punish the person who commits crimes, instead, it is to reform, educate the offender about right and wrong, morality, laws, and tell them about the consequences of the crime they committed and help them to reintegrate with society once they go out of prison. The first corrective measure prison can take is giving parole to the prisoner to allow him to spend some time with his family, friends and society. It will reduce the depression of prisoners and they will also have the relief that their family is in a good state and nothing to worry about them. But parole will only be given to prisoners who are in prison for more than eighteen months.
The second one is probation. Probation means proving worthiness. When a prisoner is sent in probation, then he must abide by all the rules that are laid down by probation officer and prison officials during the time of probation. It will reduce the tension for both him and his family. Probation is given only to the first-time young offenders. If he is not given probation and if he is with the other criminals the whole time in prison, it will destroy his life of him. So the concept of probation is to reconnect him with his family and friends and make him move with society again. Another thing is, if there is need, then not only the first-time offender, but even a previously convicted persons can be given probation with the consideration to nature and conduct of the offender.
Corrective measures are steps toward humanity. They need to turn a criminal into a human being again by educating him in the right way. The state cannot be crime-free, no matter what, it will always happen one or in another way. So we need to reduce crime and criminals. No person is born criminal, situations and circumstances make a person criminal. The act of crime happens in a second of time, without even thinking about the consequence. In many cases, bad company leads a man to commit crimes.
The corrective measures should improve the lives of prisoners. Just punishing and keeping criminals in prisons cannot help the prisoner or society. We must educate the people about the prison system and how it work and helps in reforming prisoner to good human being again. Society’s rejection and ignorance of prisoners would shake the mental well-being of prisoners once they come out of prison. The prisoners will lead a good life after prison time, only when they are educated and reformed in prison and society if as usual reconnect with him.
Reformation is not only about educating or giving works. It is to know the prisoner’s instinct, how they commit the crime, why they committed it, what induced to them do the crime, and respect the feelings of prisoners and give them their dignified life. Not in the nature of the investigation, but to just listen to them as a fellow human being. Giving them proper counseling will lift them up from the guilt they are living within prison. Prison officials need to regularly allow the family members or friends of prisoners, instead of neglecting them. Prisoners should know the rights of prisoners to get bail, to meet with their legal counsel or judicial authorities whenever they want. Most prisoners don’t even know that they can be released in bail, be in prison for the entire time. In the case of illiterate or poor people, they don’t even know they can go for legal counsel to for advice and other matters. It is the responsibility of prison officials to let him know the laws and possible ways of getting bail or parole or probation.
Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Administration on 20 December 1979
Sunil Batra was a prisoner in Tihar jail, he wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of India regarding the inhumane conditions prevailing in the Tihar jail. In that, he said about the cruel act of the warden and all. Supreme Court recognized this as public interest litigation and took measures regarding prison reforms.
I can surely tell that Prisoners were denied fundamental rights and equality. They were not given a dignified life in prison, even as fellow human beings. Prisons are meant to reform the prisoners, not to torture the prisoners. Prisoners have the right to complain about the bad condition of prisoners and if that complaint is made, then the judiciary needs to look at the matter, transfer the staff and officials regularly, and investigate the one who tortures the prisoners. Their voices need to be heard. Every district magistrate needs to inspect the prison once a month in their jurisdiction to ensure that prisoners are not tortured like this and all. Doctors need to give counseling and to check the mental health of prisoners and record it and it needs to be submitted to the prison administration and court. The court must ensure that prisoners are given basic rights and equality and dignity.
D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) 1 SCC 416
D.K. Basu wrote a letter to the supreme court of India about the custodial violence and deaths in police lock-ups. Supreme Court held that, Article.21 “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.” It cannot be denied to convicts or under trial or prisoners in custody. Any form of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment is completely prohibited. redressal mechanism should be taken seriously. The court applied the principle of strict liability that the citizen must receive the amount of compensation from the state, and the defense of sovereign immunity is not available to them.
Sheela Barse vs. State of Maharashtra AIR 1983 SC 378
In this case, women prisoners underwent custodial violence in prison. So the Supreme Court on the complaint of it, directed that victims should get justice, and legal assistance fully at the state’s expense and they will be given full protection again cruelty and torture.
Supreme court directed the Inspector General of Prisons in Maharashtra to issue a circular to all Superintendents of Police in Maharashtra, that details of all under-trial prisoners to the Legal Aid Committee with the information regarding, the prescribed period of them in prison, and extension period, what offenses they charged with and the prisoners who have been in jail beyond a period of 15 days. Prisoners need to be given legal assistance to the prisoners by Lawyers nominated by the concerned District Legal Aid Committee to enter the jail and interview the prisoners who were in need of legal assistance.