Covid and Jails in India

A deadly COVID second wave has engulfed India, and the failure of the country’s healthcare infrastructure has led to the mounting death toll. The official number of deaths caused by COVID-19 in India till May 14, 2021, crossed 2.58 lakhs, but according to a report by the University of Washington, the death toll numbers are at least 3 times the number being quoted by the governments of respective states.

Jails are perhaps the most ideal environments for infectious diseases to spread. Prisons worldwide are overcrowded, poorly sanitized, under managed and worst of all, they violate basic human rights in the name of the law. While the jails are supposed to help the person who has committed a crime to reform himself, this is just not possible when there is no proper system in place. In India, an average of US$ 333 (INR 10,474) per inmate per year was spent by prison authorities during the year 2005, distributed under the heads of food, clothing, medical expenses, vocational/educational, welfare activities and others. This is in contrast to the US, where the average annual operating cost per state inmate in 2001 was $ 22,650.

No person is called to a school, college, office etc. during the pandemic due to the fact that such institutions cannot necessarily maintain social distancing and sanitation. The basic human rights are available to everyone, including a person who is being imprisoned.

While it is agreeable that the general costs in India are much lesser than that of the US, there is a need for increasing the budgets for the jail system. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are leading documents that govern human rights and jailing with around 95 different rules in the ICCPR itself.

If there are any malfunctions in the system, the general public is given the chance to voice its opinion and also seek the remedy of courts openly to achieve justice. However, this is not necessarily the case in jails. Any petition that the person in a jail wants to file regarding the poor maintenance may not see the light of day because the jailors and the authorities in power of such jails do not want to fall in trouble. Due to this reason, many petitions die at the earliest stages even before reaching the court of law.

With the lack of vaccines and appropriate treatment for the general public of India themselves, a prisoner getting COVID is more or less all alone in his battle towards recovery.

Also Read: International Legal Principles on Corruption – Aishwarya Sandeep

According to the UN Global Report on Crime and Justice 1999, the rate of imprisonment in our country is very low, i.e. 25 prisoners per one lakh of population, in comparison to Australia (981 prisoners), England (125 prisoners), USA (616 prisoners) and Russia (690 prisoners) per one lakh population. A large chunk of prison population is dominated by first offenders (around 90%) The rate of offenders and recidivists in prison population of Indian jails is 9: l while in the UK it is 12:1, which is quite revealing and alarming. Despite the relatively lower populations in prison, the problems are numerous. Recently, the Tihar Jail, famous for its inhuman activities in Delhi released a statement that by May 2021, 11,369 inmates and 194 jail staff had tested positive. The validity of such reports are doubtable at best due to the false numbers being reported by the State Governments themselves as was acknowledged by the Prime Minister of India.

Some solutions to this situation can be the releasing of first time offenders of relatively lower crimes. If a person has a time or less than 3 years or 5 years left out of a relatively larger total jail time of 20 years, then the person can be put on parole. Such people released on parole can be tracked by the local police in the area where the prisoner is going to reside during the time of the pandemic. This is perhaps the only way to provide actual justice to people in jail.

The Government of India needs to do something immediately because the people in jails are already paying their price for the wrong done by them. This wrong does not have to amount to an indirect death penalty because of the corona virus pandemic.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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You may also like to read:

Poverty – Aishwarya Sandeep

Implications of a National Emergency During Covid – Aishwarya Sandeep

Uniform Civil Code – Aishwarya Sandeep

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