Too much corruption is prevalent inside the jails, and there are ways through which one can get access to various amenities like (cigarette, alcohol, a girl for a night, good food etc). Usually corporate criminals and politicians are the ones availing these facilities as prices are spiked like anything inside. Recent example is the case of politician Sasikala. Whenever high profile woman is imprisoned she is offered all special privileges because she can afford to bribe the authorities. On the other hand prison becomes a living hell for common woman especially those who are nabbed for indulging in petty thefts. Any jail in India is a death trap.
Poor criminals with no serious background and who are inside for petty crimes often become victims in everyone’s hand, they most of the time try to commit suicide. In my opinion, in a certain number of cases bullied criminals, who die in brawls are framed as ‘committed suicide in guilt’ just to shield the inefficient, ineffective Indian Jail System.
Indian Jails in reality are nothing short of a nightmare. In India two types of prisoners are detained. First, those under trial prisoner whose cases are being investigated/tried and judgment is yet not pronounced. Moreover they are not even granted bail. Nearly two third of Indian prisoners are under trail in Indian Jails, who are languishing imprisoned for years. Some woman spend 10 years some others with their infants until they turn five years of age. Not only the mother but even the child goes through hell after watching mother’s jail term. When such children are released from jail they tend to become criminals or low esteemed suppressed personalities. They have watched their mother been brutally harassed by authorities inside the jail. They come out with hate and revenge.
Second category is of convicts who are undergoing their pronounced sentences. Both have different daily routines. They are nearly one third of total inmates lodged in Indian jails. Convicts are in minority and under trials are in majority in Indian Jail. Their daily routine is little bit more relaxed. Under trails have fixed hour of free life but convicts have their own relaxation based on their work routine.
Coming back to Mumbai prison, every month, each of the more than 1,000 women at the Aadharwadi prison in Kalyan is given a bar of soap. They have to use it to wash their clothes, utensils and clean themselves. Skin ailments are routine. Throughout the day, there are two toilets for all of them to share. Several women have had a series of urinary tract infections. At night, they crowd into a space meant for 150.
One thousand women jailed in a space meant for 150, each making do with one bar of soap to bathe and to wash clothes for an entire month. Their children grow up knowing little about the outside world, unable to recognise even cats and dogs. This is the world of women prisoners in the two jails that house them in and around Mumbai, one at Byculla and the other at Kalyan. It’s tragic but true that women prisoners are ostracised much more by their kin than men are.
There is stigma attached to women in prison. They are not supposed to be ‘criminals’, so their families sever ties with them. While family members come to the aid of many male prisoners, with women they are reluctant. These female criminals have no one to care for them, neither jail authorities nor family members. No one comes forward to help them with, for instance, another bar of soap. No one offers medical aid or moral support. No one explains where their cases stand, what their legal options are.
Many of these women are facing trial for murdering their husbands or domestic disputes. Families find it difficult to reconcile with this, and snap all ties with them. Sometimes NGOs step in and counsel the relatives. Some of them come around. And sometimes, as it happened with a mentally ill woman at the Kalyan prison in 2010, families don’t even know they are imprisoned and think that they are not alive. It was only after extensive counselling that she was able to reveal them her family’s address. Later, officials contacted them and they were reunited.
The absence of family is felt most when health problems strike. Those suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes require a regular supply of pills. This is possible if their family members offer it to them. Those with no relatives are taken to the nearby JJ hospital only after their condition worsens due to lack of medicines. A psychiatrist and a gynaecologist visit the prison once a week, and there is a full-time doctor. These women are mentally disturbed and physically exhausted, they become aggressive haters towards each other.
In such an atmosphere, fights are common, and prison guards often have to intervene. Staff and teachers who sometimes visit also need to have tremendous patience. The job of looking into the problems of prisoners is the probation officer’s (PO) duty who is appointed by the department of women and child development. But there is a shortage of POs, and they are often assigned other responsibilities, so inmates are hardly a priority.
Traumatising prison conditions and practices often have damaging and long-term impact on the mental health of inmates, especially women. Institutions of correction and custody are as fraught with gender and other biases as the world outside. The World Health Organisation suggests that one in nine of the total prison population of 9 million in the world suffers from some form of mental disorder or illness. The total capacity of women inmates was highest in Tamil Nadu (1,070) followed by Uttar Pradesh (420), West Bengal & Delhi (400 each), Rajasthan (350), Andhra Pradesh (308), Maharashtra (262), Punjab (150), Bihar (83), Kerala (72), Odisha (55) and Tripura (30) according to NCRB data. There is a need to provide dignity and hygiene to women who serve long sentences inside as well as undertrials. Let’s hope some changes will happen in this dark world.
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