How India treats women in prisons NCRB report reveals overcrowding, large presence of inmates' children

10, Sep 2020 | Sanchita Kadam

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released its in its Prison Statistics Report for 2019, and it showcases the ever-worsening plight of women prisoners. As per the data, out of the 4,78,600 prisoners, 4,58,687 were male prisoners and 19,913 were female prisoners.

Out of about 1,300 prisons, there are 31 women’s jails in 15 States/Union Territories (UTs) including Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Delhi, Karnataka Maharashtra, Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The state of West Bengal has the highest occupancy rate (142.04%) in its women jail followed by Maharashtra (138.55%) and Bihar (112.5%).

These 31 prisons have a capacity of 6,511 inmates and currently, 3,652 women prisoners are housed in these jails. Hence, the occupancy rate is 56.1%. However, in states where there are no women jails, women are housed in separate sections of regular jails and hence, additionally, there are 16,261 female prisoners in regular jails. Uttarakhand has reported the highest female occupancy rate (170.1%) while Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of female prisoners (4,174) in the country.

In the 5-year period between 2014-19, the number of women inmates has increased by 21.7% (from 3,001 to 3,652) in women jails and by 10.77% (from 14,680 to 16,261) in regular jails.

Types of prisoners

Even amongst female prisoners, the percentage of undertrials is more than the convicts. In women’s jails there are 2,246 under-trials, 1,346 convicts and 60 detenues. Delhi women jails have the highest number of under-trials (521) and Tamil Nadu has the highest number of detenues (37).

Out of the total 19,913 female prisoners, 13,550 are undertrials, 6,179 are convicts and 99 are detenues. Out of all under trials, 7 females were eligible for release under section 436A of the CrPC [Undertrials who have undergone imprisonment extending up to more than half of the sentence for the accused offences cumulatively are eligible for release] and 5 of these were released.

Prisoners with children

There were 1,543 women prisoners with 1,779 children, out of which 1,212 women prisoners were undertrial prisoners who were accompanied by 1,409 children and 325 convicted prisoners who were accompanied by 363 children.

Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest number of women with children (430 women with 490 children) followed by West Bengal (147 women with 192 children) and Madhya Pradesh (148 women with 177 children).

Prison infrastructure

Here’s a look at a few states that have provided their female prisoners with decent infrastructure in terms of vocational training, creche facilities and education.

Andhra Pradesh: Computer labs are established in all Central Prisons and Special Prison for Women for imparting basic Computer education to the prisoners. Medical camps are arranged for women at women jail Rajamahendravaram.

Crèche and Nursery facilities for the children are available in Special Prisons for Women in Andhra Pradesh. With a view to see that children of the prisoners have a normal upbringing in a healthy atmosphere, the Department has started sending these children to schools, outside the prison to get their primary education.

Tamil Nadu: Mahatma Gandhi Community College as well as elementary schools established in all the Special Prisons for Women. There are ambulances, counsellors, psychologists in female prisons. Reverse Osmosis Plant with accessories with a capacity of 500 liters per hour in 3 Special Prisons for Women at Puzhal, Vellore and Tiruchirappalli. To facilitate the prisoners to contact their relatives, friends and also their Advocates, 65 telephone booths are installed in the 3 Special Prisons for Women.

Children born in prison may remain with their mothers until they attain the age of six years, if they cannot be otherwise suitably placed. Food, clothing, shelter, medical care and recreational facilities are also provided to them. A creche and nursery have also been attached to the Special Prisons for Women to look after the children. Nursing women are supplied with half a litre milk per day. Based on the recommendation of the Medical Officer, baby foods are provided to less than one-year old babies accompanying the female prisoners, keeping in view the nutritional requirement of growing children.

The Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority has opened a Legal Aid Cell in all Special Prisons for Women for the benefit of the prisoners.

Prisoners Adalats has been established in all Special Prisons for Women. The Magistrates regularly conduct Prisoners Adalat and dispose of the cases of prisoners who plead guilty. Visitors Management System software has been installed in all Special Prisons for Women to keep track of visitors.

Gujarat: For the reformation/ rehabilitation of women prisoners various courses such as, Mehendi Classes, Beauty Parlour Classes, Sewing/Embroidery Work Classes have also been timely arranged at Vadodara Women Prison. A spoken English Basic Training Course was also organised at Vadodara Women Prison for Women Prisoners. Anganwadis and Primary School have been started for the children living with their mothers in Ahmedabad / Vadodara Central Prison with help of a reputed NGO.

A leading NGO has appointed fully trained lady teachers and music teachers for female sections of Ahmedabad Central Prison and Vadodara Central Prison to educate illiterate women. Fortified food is made available to the children Living with the female prisoners under the Child Development scheme of the State Government.

Delhi: The female prisoners are taught courses like stitching, weaving, fashion jewelry, jute products, balwari, embroidery, envelope making, pottery, diya and candle making, namkeen making, artificial flowers, herbal pack, dhoop agarbatti making, pickles and papad making, beauty culture and painting to empower them to be able to start their life afresh after release. The other activities which are carried out in the female prison are Computer Literacy, English Speaking Course, Drawing, Painting and Dance classes.

In women’s prison, an inmate can keep her child with her until 6 years of age if she so desires. Creche facility is provided to the women prisoners.

Pearl Academy is also conducting fashion designing classes in women jail and several prisoners are benefited with such classes.

Female staff

A total of 7,794 women staff was reported as working in different cadres across Indian jails. The State of Madhya Pradesh has reported  the highest number of female staff in their Jail Department (1,110) followed by Bihar (914) and Rajasthan (701).

The complete report may be read here.


NCRB’s Prison Statistics Report 2019 paints a bleak picture

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