[Answered] What are the reasons behind the overcrowding of prisons in India? State the measures that are required to handle the overcrowding.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain the reasons behind the overcrowding of prisons in India. Also write some measures that are required to handle the overcrowding.Conclusion: Write a way forward.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s reports the capacity of prisons has increased from some 3.32 lakh to 4.25 lakh in the last decade, which is a 27% increase while the number of prisoners has increased from 3.7 lakh to 5.54 lakh in the same period, by 48%. This imbalance has caused the occupancy rate to surge from 112% to 130% in the last decade.

Reasons behind the overcrowding of prisons in India:

  • The main reason behind overcrowding is undertrial prisoners as they account for 77 percent of the total occupancy. According to the Prison Statistics India 2021, between 2016-2021, the number of convicts in jails has decreased by 9.5 per cent whereas the number of undertrial inmates has increased by 45.8 per cent.
  • The pace of creating new infrastructure is sluggish. As the number of prisoners grows and no additional space for their accommodation is provided, overcrowding in prisons occurs.
  • There is the rise in the number of people held under preventive detention.

Measures:

  • Fair social policies and crime prevention: Taking action against poverty and social marginalization is key to preventing crime and violence and, in turn, reducing prison overcrowding.
  • Reviewing and re-categorizing offences: It would give the courts the possibility of imposing non-custodial sanctions and measures or shorter prison terms for a larger number of offences. E.g. Imprisonment of children as a measure of last resort
  • Improving the efficiency of the criminal justice system: Procedural laws may be simplified to allow courts to spend less time on processing minor cases and freeing up time to process serious and complicated cases. e.g. computer-based case tracking systems.
  • Alternatives to imprisonment: Traditional alternatives, such as fines, community service orders; Suspended sentences (used in Germany).
  • It may be better to focus on creating new infrastructure to accommodate the ever-rising number of prisoners.
  • Faster trials, liberal bail provisions, amendments in Acts to make offences compoundable also can solve the problem.

The Dickensian idea of building more prisons is not a sustainable solution. The judiciary, lawmakers, and government must act quickly to address this crisis.

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