Undertrial prisoners comprise 77 per cent of the prison population – up from 76 per cent nationally. Their numbers have nearly doubled since 2010 from 2.4 lakh to 4.3 lakh in 2021. With the exception of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura, the undertrial population of all other states exceed 60 per cent.
The data from January 2021 to December 2021 was revealed by the Prison Statistics India (PSI), the latest official statistics of India’s prisons and their inmates, published by the National Crime Records Bureau.
As per the analysis of the figures, 1.47 crore people were arrested in 2021, an increase of 7.7 lakhs from 1.39 crore in 2020.
Inmate population across 1319 prisons grew 13 per cent from 488,511 (Dec 2020) to 554,034 (Dec 2021). The annual increase is particularly worrying; given that 2021 was the second Covid year when a slew of decongestion efforts were being implemented across the nation.
The total number of people entering and leaving prisons in the course of the year also increased by 10.8 per cent from 16.3 lakhs in 2020 to a total of 18.1 lakh in 2021.
The analysis shows prisoners’ visits to courts came up from 15.5 lakhs in 2020 to 20.9 lakh in 2021. Inmates’ access to health services, with the number of visits made by prisoners for medical attendance, rose from 3.6 lakh visits in 2020 to 4.4 lakh.
Maja Daruwala, Chief Editor of the India Justice Report, said: “Given the intention of governments to move strongly in the direction of rehabilitation there will have to be much greater investment in infrastructure, human resources and their training as well as to developing prison industry and skill building and the problem of overcrowding has to be sorted as a priority.”
Nationally, overall occupancy of prisons increased from 118 per cent to 130 per cent. With the onset of the second wave of the pandemic, and fresh directions to limit arrests and decongest prisons, only 93,526 inmates were released in 17 states/UTs between March and July 2021.
Yet, as of December 2021, nineteen out of thirty-six states and Union Territories had overcrowding ranging from 185 per cent in Uttarakhand – the highest, to 100.2 per cent in Rajasthan. Among the Union Territories, Dadra and Nagar Haveli & Daman and Diu, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir had over 100 per cent occupancy rates.