Now even jails may be outsourced. Inspired by the South African model, the home ministry is planning to nudge states to build and run jails on public private partnership (PPP) to avoid massive investments needed to build new ones.
India has nearly 1,300 jails that have a capacity of 2.7 lakh prisoners. But they end up accommodating 3.7 lakh prisoners instead.
The finance ministry had refused to fund a Rs 4,200-crore central plan to expand the capacity of jails and instead asked the home ministry to look at other options including the PPP.
Sources said the home ministry had received a proposal from the Indian High Commission in this context after a private company running correctional facilities approached them.
The ministry officials said the concept could be implemented either by allocating land to a private party that would construct or run the facility or an existing prison could be given to a private company.
In both cases, the government would pay the firm a fixed amount for every prisoner each month.
According to back of the envelope calculations, sources said Delhi would save money even if it had to annually pay almost Rs 75,000 a prisoner to the private party.
Tihar prison spends nearly Rs 60,000 on every prisoner annually, the national average is Rs 13,000. But this figure does not include the infrastructure cost and salaries. “We probably spend more on prisoners than we spend on welfare scheme for the poor,” a Tihar jail official in Delhi said.
A ministry official acknowledged that the concept needed to be concretised and the models of providing security to the prisons thoroughly examined.
“We have written to the South African government to seek their comments, particularly in context of the security, cost... regulatory mechanism to monitor such jails,” the official said, pointing that this proposal was being discussed at the conference of chiefs of jails.