As many as 14,800 prisoners - men and women who are murderers, cons, rapists, robbers, death row convicts, and thousands who claim to be innocent - occupy the Tihar Jail and the numbers keep increasing every month. It was a little over 13,000 last year and the figure is nearing the 15,000- mark this year.
But the country’s largest jail, where 25-35 deaths are reported every year, has just two overburdened psychologists to hear the prisoners out.
Last month, a 27-year-old man was found hanging less than two weeks after he had come to the prison in a robbery case. Days before that, a woman attempted suicide, unable to come to terms with life inside a prison.
There have been at least nine established cases of suicide over the last three years. This year there were over 20 deaths, out of which three have been confirmed as suicides.
According to the Delhi government website, there were 120 ‘mentally unstable’ prisoners last year.
There should be seven psychologists for 6,250 prisoners - one for every 890 prisoners - but today there is one for 7,400 prisoners.
Jail authorities said they manage counselling by identifying depressed prisoners and talking to them. The superintendents have been told a make a list of suicide watch prisoners and communicate with them every day.
To make up for psychologists, the authorities use CCTV to keep an eye on ‘suicide watch prisoners’. Delhi gang-rape convicted Mukesh Singh was one among the many kept on suicide watch, after his brother Ram Singh committed suicide.
“The depressed are not left alone. We encourage them to participate in sports and cultural activities everyday. We also keep them with prisoners who can understand their problems,” an officer said.
In this 200-acre prison, where around 1,100 prisoners visit the out-patient department every day, the medical unit has been working without a resident medical officer for the last five years.
In 2010, over 2.8 lakh patients were examined across the OPDs in Tihar, read Delhi government website. The figure in 2015 has already crossed three lakh.
Those who have come out of jail, confess that inside Tihar many develop skin problems because they have to ‘live and share ‘ the same space in the overpopulated jail which houses more than twice its strength of 6,250 prisoners. Yet, there is no skin specialist here, or even a dentist.