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Author: Garima Kamboj, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from University institute of legal studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh

“No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside the jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but how it’s lowest ones”. – Nelson Mandela


Criminals are kept in prison because they are considered a threat to society whereas they are supposed to live only with the basic needs of life like food, clothes, and shelter in jail. But we did not know about the gloomy life of the prisoners; they have to suffer a lot of problems such as overcrowding, critical living conditions, no proper medical facilities, custodial deaths, and rape. Harassment is one of the major issues which the prisoners suffer. Harassment means insulting, abusing, or torturing a person regularly which is an unwanted and unwelcoming action that might be done to humiliate another person. It is an illegal act that can affect a person mentally and physically.


Life seems difficult in the dark and dingy cells of the prisons. There is no end to the problems of the prisoners and the act of harassment adds more misery to their life. It not only affects a person physically but psychologically also and can leave lifelong scars also. Police officers to obtain more information and confession used to beat the prisoners and harass them mentally & physically. Custodial rape and Custodial deaths are the results of this harassment which has become a serious issue not only for the prisoners but for every person living in society.


In Indian prisons, prisoners are not able to get even the basic necessity of life. Custodial deaths and sexual violence cases are not in the limelight too. Many of the cases go unattended and unreported due to the suppression from the higher authorities. So, that's why rapes have become very common in prisons. The rights and necessities of transgender women are also neglected in the prison. They suffer a lot of discrimination and sexual violence in the prison by the police officials.

But in Indian prisons, prisoners do not even have proper access to justice which leads to the violation of article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Also, their right to live with dignity and right to life is violated as their rights are rarely implemented and in most cases seem neglected. In the case of Hiralal Mallick vs. the State of Bihar[i], it was held that if a person is in prison that does not prevent him/her to use the Habeas Corpus writ to protect his/her rights.


This is not a new problem in Indian prisons, it exist for the past hundred years and has not been resolved till now. There are daily additions of new prisoners in the jails but the jail infrastructure remains the same and does not improve in any manner. The main problem is that in India trials take a long time which results that there are a lot of prisoners under trial in many prisons. It can be said that the overcrowding is not due to the higher rate of imprisonment but due to the higher rate of under trials and this rate is increasing drastically.


Sexual violence has become common in prisons. Most women are more vulnerable to sexual violence. Sexual assault can be visual, verbal, or unwanted indulgence in sexual activities where the consent of the victim does not matter. Women are raped and sexually tortured by their inmates, jailers, and other officials. Due to the suppression from the high officials, the victims are not able to raise their voices and if they raise their voices, no one believes them. This is the sad reality of today's society that we do not pay attention to the issues of women in prisons and left such issues unnoticed. This is also an outcome of overcrowding in prisons.


The quality of necessities differs from person to person if a prisoner has strong economical power or strong political support then they are given a better quality of food and other necessities easily by paying some extra amount to the Government. These 'A' class persons are provided with a lot of good facilities and special services. Instead of this, prisoners should be given equal quality necessities and there should not be any kind of discrimination based on class.


There are no proper medical facilities provided to the prisoners and the conditions in which they live are very unhygienic and unclean. Several prisoners die due to infectious diseases every year. Due to lack of nutrition or physical exercise, prisoners suffer from weak immunity and that’s why they generally fall ill. The dingy cells, filthy walls, and long hours in the lock-up can cause mental health problems to the prisoners.


Prisons are mostly men-centered and they did not pay heed to the problems of women. Generally, the prisons are arranged in such a manner that they have to accommodate only men who comprise approximately 95% of the prison population in India. The medical facilities are already at neglect and sexual violence is an addition to their miserable life. Most of the officials are male and they are unable to understand the condition of women. They feel difficulty in adjusting to the atmosphere of the prisons.


Firstly, there is a need to strictly enforce the provisions of the criminal justice system. This will improve the condition of the prisoners and prison. There should be regular checking of the prisons by the higher authorities to make prisons a better place to survive. Rape laws should be amended and they should be gender neutral because they can be committed against any gender. There is a need to pay attention to the needs and requirements of transgender persons. For the protection of women, there should be an appointment of female jailors and they should be kept away from the male prisoners to protect them from sexual violence. Medical facilities should be provided to every prisoner and there should not be any special privileges for any specific class.


A person is sent to prison to keep him isolated from society because their presence is thought to be a danger to the whole community. But the violence and harassment that they have to face in the prison seem injustice to them. They are forced to live in inhuman conditions without even the basic facilities. The needs of transgender prisoners should also be given importance. It is the need of the hour that the conditions of the prisons must be changed and when the prisoners come out of jail, they come as responsible and civilized citizens of society.

[i] Hiralal Mallick vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1977 SC 2237


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