Over 10.2 million people are jailed around the world. A jail is a place where lawbreakers who commit heinous crimes are held captive and imprisoned. Criminals are sent to prison for reasons other than punishment, according to popular belief. People commonly believe that when a prisoner is detained, he loses his right to liberty because he is forced to live in a confined, restricted environment. According to the most recent data available, India has 4,78,600 convicts.
The majority of Indian convicts are uneducated, poor, and belong to a marginalized social group with insufficient awareness of their health and lifestyle practices. As a consequence, they form a distinct and sensitive health population that requires special care.
While a lack of awareness about the health of prisoners is a major human rights concern, the importance of managing illness in jails as part of a bigger public health agenda and as part of basic healthcare is a concept that has yet to catch on in India.
PRISONERS AND COMMUNICABLE DISEASES: Overcrowding in India has increased the problem of sanitation. Many prisons have horrible conditions. Even basic services are unavailable at the tehsil level. Inmates in India are not even tested for some infectious diseases, despite the fact that all detainees are given a medical check when they begin serving their sentence. Sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs), HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are all known to affect inmates. The antagonism of detainees is heightened by their cramped, often overcrowded living conditions.
Irritation and anxiety are exacerbated by the monotonous jail environment, a lack of mental and physical stimulation, and simple boredom. High-risk activities, such as drug use and male-on-male sex, are encouraged in this environment. To prevent boredom, some people participate in these activities. According to a study published in 2007, HIV prevalence among prison populations in 20 countries was greater than 10%. In Indian prisons, there are indications of a high prevalence of HIV/STIs, but the evidence is limited. According to HIV prevalence research conducted in Indian prisons, 1.7 percent of male prisoners and 9.5 percent of female detainees were HIV positive. This is significantly higher than the national HIV prevalence rates, which are 0.32 percent for males and 0.22 percent for women.
Human Rights Watch has documented high tuberculosis rates in India, with TB accounting for 9% of jail deaths according to a 2008 study.
In Rasikbhai Ramsun Rana vs. State of Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court ruled that petitioners incarcerated in the Central Prison, Vadodara, who were suffering from serious illnesses were denied adequate and prompt medical care due to a lack of jail escorts required to transport them to the hospital, and that the court held negligent officers personally liable. In a suo moto writ case filed in 2005, the Gujarat High Court issued orders to the state government to ensure that all Central and District prisons had an ICCU, pathology lab, expert physicians, sufficient staff, including nurses, and the most up-to-date medical treatment technologies. The Tihar Jail administration has been ordered by the Delhi High Court to provide meditational treatment and counseling to inmates in Sanjay V. State (CRL.A.600 of 2000).
MENTAL HEALTH AND SUICIDE IN INDIAN PRISONS: Another major public health issue, with a high prevalence among inmates, is mental illness. It is crucial to detect and treat people with mental health illnesses for the sake of justice and to ensure the protection of basic human rights, which is an essential ethos of the Indian constitution and society. According to international studies, the prevalence of mental diseases in jails is three times higher than in the general population.
A mentally ill prisoner is someone who has been ordered to be held in or removed from a psychiatric hospital, psychiatric nursing home, jail or any other place of secure custody under section 27 of the Mental Health Act of 1978 (hereinafter “MHA”).
Suicide rates in Indian jails have been reported to range between 5 and 8%. According to a 2008 study, suicide was the cause of 11 percent of prison deaths. Unnatural deaths in imprisonment, notable suicides, are frequently blamed on police brutality and torture.
PROBLEMS FACED AMIDST PANDEMIC: Personal liberty is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, which prohibits any inhumane, cruel, or degrading treatment of anyone, whether a citizen or a foreigner. Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality and equal protection under the law, makes any violation of this right illegal. Furthermore, the Prison Act of 1894 addresses the subject of prisoner maltreatment in detail. When a prisoner is abused, the jail management is considered responsible.
Scientists warn that as the pandemic grows, more money for public healthcare will be required. Despite the fact that the Indian Constitution lacks a basic right to health, the Supreme Court has recognized that the right to life involves a similar interest and has enshrined a constitutional obligation to provide health care to all. However, the health requirements of inmates have been overlooked. The Supreme Court maintained the protection of inmates’ health more than two decades ago.
Governments continue to ignore the Supreme Court’s mandate. The state is responsible for safeguarding the dignity of inmates. Despite this, in March 2020, the Supreme Court stated that awful jail conditions continue. All governments and correctional authorities were required to take immediate action to guarantee that competent medical treatment is provided. Convicts were transported for decongestion or medical assistance, reaction plans were developed in collaboration with medical professionals, and monitoring teams were established. Nearly four months later, there is no formal public data to verify if the orders were followed. A significant number of detainees are still affected by the disease.
Overcrowding is caused by a number of issues, including India’s present bail system. For example, district-level committees in charge of investigating cases and monitoring jail conditions do not convene on a regular basis, resulting in jail overstays and delays in bonding out eligible detainees. Courts frequently postpone bail hearings, and most convicts receive poor legal assistance. Inmates expect to see their family during the lockdown, but this has been discontinued, leaving them with few options. Several jails, on the other hand, have begun to offer regular video calling services and have expanded the number of payphones on hand.
It is hoped that the situation would improve in the near future since inmates continue to be protected by Article 21 of our Indian Constitution, which guarantees life and personal liberty.
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.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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