State prisons have 166% more inmates than capacity

Published on Jun 27, 2022 12:52 AM IST

In Yerawada central prison, 6,866 inmates were filling the space meant for 2,449, an increase by 288 per cent

According to the prison authorities, Yerawada jail is one of the fifteen jails in the state which has double or more than sanctioned capacity of inmates. (HT FILE)
According to the prison authorities, Yerawada jail is one of the fifteen jails in the state which has double or more than sanctioned capacity of inmates. (HT FILE)
ByNadeem Inamdar

The state prisons are housing more inmates than pre-Covid period. The latest figures released by the state prisons department till the end of May 2022 pegged the current prison capacity of state jails at 24,772 and, as of June 1, as many as 40,946 prisoners were languishing in different central and district prisons.

The increase of 16,174 is higher than the actual capacity which amounts to 166% occupancy despite clarion calls by the judiciary and civil society seeking decongestion of different jails in Maharashtra.

In May 2021, the total prison capacity of state jails was 24,032 and it was occupied by 35,124 prisoners, an occupancy rate of 146%.

In Yerawada central prison, 6,866 inmates were filling the space meant for 2,449, an increase by 288 per cent. According to the prison authorities, Yerawada jail is one of the fifteen jails in the state which has double or more than sanctioned capacity of inmates.

Between May 8 and November 11, 2020, 4,000 inmates had been released on parole and furlough by jail authorities following the Covid outbreak. In May 2022, they were ordered to return to prisons within 15 days by the Maharashtra home department. They were released for 45 days which was extended to 90.

The statistics reveal that of the 4,049,46 prisoners, 39,314 were males, 1,619 females and 13 transgenders. The Mumbai central jail known as Arthur Road jail stood on top in the state with highest prisoners. Mumbai central jail currently has 3,406 inmates against its official capacity of 804, followed by Thane, Buldhana, Kalyan and Nanded. Yerawada jail is the state’s seventh most populous that currently houses 6,866 prisoners against its capacity of 2,499.

There are nine central jails, 28 district jails, one special jail at Ratnagiri, one juvenile improvement home at Nashik, one Mumbai district women’s jail, 19 open jails and one open hostel at Atpadi.

The minimum ground space per inmate is 1.19 square metre for sleeping as against the average minimum ground space of 3.71 square metre set as a standard requirement, according to Maharashtra Prisons (Prison Buildings and Sanitary Arrangements) Rules, 1964.

The lack of sleeping space per inmate was highlighted in the audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in the general and social sector for the year ended March 2018. The audit is conducted every five years. The rules dictate strict directions to be followed by the state home department regarding minimum ground space, which is mandatory, required to be provided to the prisoners for sleeping in barracks.

The CAG report specifies that the Yerawada Central Prison and Correction Centre has 60 authorised barracks. The actual number of occupants per barrack is 190 and there are 130 extra occupants, making the available ground space per occupant to 1.19 square metre.

In the biannual examination of prisoners’ report (July-December 2017, updated figures yet to be released) published by the prisons department and submitted to the Inspector General of Pune police, it was reported that 2,193 prisoners were suffering from skin diseases. Although no specific reason has been stated by the authorities, lack of space can be attributed to rise in skin infections, stated the CAG report.

The report points out that the Supreme Court had taken suo-motu cognisance regarding inhuman conditions in prisons of all states and Union territories and given directions regarding improvement of these conditions. Accordingly, the prison department of Maharashtra had submitted the compliance to the directions of the court on August 5, 2017.

The Supreme Court in March 2018 critically viewed the issue of over occupancy and observed that prisoners cannot be kept like animals and directed the state governments to submit plans of action to deal with the issue of overcrowding. Though the department was aware of the issue, no effective action in this regard was taken. The ACS (Appeals and Security), home department, stated during the exit conference that the space constraint was again attributed to the number of undertrials kept in prison.

The then home minister Anil Deshmukh in 2020 had stated that there was a proposal before the state home department to construct multiple new jails with modern amenities to ease the existing overcrowding of inmates.

Deshmukh had said, “Currently prisons in Maharashtra occupy much higher numbers of inmates than the actual capacity. Wwe submitted two proposals before the chief Minister and the deputy chief minister. One of the proposals is for constructing new houses for the police force. The other one is for increasing the capacity of prisons. We have proposed to construct new prisons with modern amenities at multiple locations in the state. Some of them will be multi-storied. Our jails have available spaces with them, which will also be used for this.”

Sunil Ramanand, additional director general of police (ADGP), Prisons, Maharashtra, could not be reached for comments.

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