The National Crime Records Bureau published astonishing findings in their latest survey on India's prison system.
In 2015, the country's 1,401 jails were overcrowded with almost 53,000 inmates over their combined capacity.
67% of them were undertrials; 70% were either illiterate, or hadn't studied after Class X.
How successful are prisons then, in achieving their three primary goals: reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration?
Do prisons serve their purpose?
What is causing this lack in the system?
We can expect an ideal system only when it is run properly. But according to the same 2015 report, 27,000 positions (34%) in prisons are lying vacant. Some are being run by just eight warders.
There is no emphasis on in-service training for prison personnel either.
Since they are state-funded, and return on investment is less, there is almost always a crunch of finances.
10 May 2017
But prisoner rehabilitation is important
Prisoners have it hard, within jail and outside. Many find it difficult to cope with the outside world when released.
Often, their family/society ostracize them, they are left with measly financial resources, and lack productive skills.
A majority ends up committing more crimes and ending up inside jails again.
Prison rehabilitation programs often fail miserably in equipping convicts with abilities to fend for themselves.
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Have Indian prisons delivered? Tihar Jail, leading the way
Tihar, Asia's largest jail, has undergone a sea change: from a violent prison culture run by criminal gangs in the 1970s, to one that has set a global example in rehabilitation.
Campus placements help them use their skills to earn.
The renowned Tihar Jail factory
The factory inside Tihar is better than many others: from Rs. 2.6cr in 2004, it increased its revenue to Rs. 11cr in just five years. Inmates produce a range of items -handloom, paper, baked goods, shoes and more, all sold under the brand name "TJ's".
The private sector has entered the prison market
Lately, the private sector, from big names like The Himalaya Drug Company and Spark Minda to small-time manufacturers, has started venturing into prisons across India.
However, balance between corporate profit and prisoners' welfare has to be ensured.
But prisons can't do it alone
Inmates' rehabilitation is not just the prisons' responsibility; after all, the whole society suffers if criminals aren't successfully reintegrated.
Social mindsets need to change - prospective employers need to look beyond their crime record, and neighbours should welcome them instead of shunning them.
Community acceptance and respect, especially in a collective culture like in India, can play a major role in correcting anti-social tendencies.
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