With the Bombay high court asking the state government to build a new prison in Mumbai, the focus is back on the overcrowded prisons in and around the city.
Mumbai has two prisons (Arthur road jail and Byculla women’s prison) while Navi Mumbai has one (Taloja jail) and Thane has two (Thane central jail and Kalyan jail). Of these, Arthur Road is by far the most overcrowded. According to the prison department, the jail currently houses 2,680 inmates, more than three times its capacity of 804. Thane central jail is next most crowded; it has room for just 1,105 inmates but actually houses 3,056. Even Byculla women’s jail, the least crowded of the five, houses 81 more inmates than the 200 it has room for.
Official blame overcrowding on the high crime rate in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and the fact that setting up a new jail is far from easy. The authorities are looking at expanding existing facilities and adding more barracks as setting up a new jail involves a lengthy process and acquiring numerous permissions. Additional director general of prisons BK Upadhyay told HT that there were plans to build two new barracks at Arthur road jail that would increase its capacity by 300 to 350 inmates.
The number of people under trial also far exceeds the number of convicts in jails across the state. While video conferencing is an option if the inmate is far away from a court, the rules say that under-trials in city jails must be produced in court. Once they are convicted they are shifted out of the city; gangster Arun Gawli, for example, was moved to Nagpur jail after he was convicted.
While prison department’s 2017 figures showed that Maharashtra’s jails were 30% over capacity, according to National Crime Records Bureau figures from 2015, Maharashtra’s jails were 12% over capacity on average. According to the NCRB, Dadra and Nagar Haveli had the most crowded jails (177% over capacity), followed by Chhattisgarh (134%), Delhi (127%), Meghalaya (178%), Uttar Pradesh (69%), Madhya Pradesh (40%), Uttarakhand (36%), Kerala (18%), Punjab (18%), Jharkhand (14%), Maharashtra (13%), Himachal Pradesh (11%), Assam (10%), Haryana (9%), West Bengal (3%) and Rajasthan (2%).