A parliamentary panel has suggested the implementation of ankle trackers or bracelets for prison inmates as a solution to alleviate prison overcrowding.
The parliamentary committee on home affairs, which recently released its report, emphasized the potential of technology in creating cost-effective ankle trackers or bracelets for individuals who have been granted bail and are temporarily out of prison.
They highlighted that bail is often denied for three primary reasons: concerns that the undertrial prisoner might influence or intimidate witnesses, attempt to flee the country, or commit additional crimes.
During their meeting, the committee was informed about an initiative by the Odisha government. The report emphasized the importance of ensuring that this method is employed voluntarily, with the consent of the inmates, to prevent any human rights violations.
The report, titled 'Prison-Conditions, Infrastructure, and Reforms,' acknowledged the urgent issues of overcrowding and delayed justice, which have far-reaching consequences for both prisoners and the criminal justice system.
The panel recommended that prisoners from overcrowded facilities should be transferred to other prisons with available cells, either within the same state or to other states.
The report also highlighted the inadequate jamming capabilities in many State Prison Departments, with some only able to block 2G and 3G network signals. This lack of jamming technology has led to the frequent smuggling of mobile phones into prisons, posing a potential security hazard.
In addition, the states of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh raised concerns about the deteriorating conditions of some century-old colonial-era prisons in the country.
The committee praised the proposal by the Government of Gujarat to transform Ahmedabad Jail into a Bhajiya House, a restaurant, and a historical gallery that would showcase the lives and times of prominent figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Kasturba Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Zaverchand Meghani, all of whom were once inmates of Sabarmati Jail.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau's (NCRB) prison statistics for 2021, India has 1,319 prisons with a total capacity of 425,609 prisoners. However, the actual inmate population stands at 554,034, resulting in an occupancy rate of 130.2 per cent.
Undertrial prisoners constitute the majority, numbering 427,165, compared to 122,852 convicted prisoners. This disproportionate number of undertrial prisoners is a primary cause of prison overcrowding.
Furthermore, women prisoners' occupancy has also increased, while prisons are understaffed by approximately 30 per cent of the required personnel.
Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of undertrial prisoners, accounting for 21.21 per cent of the country's total, while Delhi has the highest percentage of undertrial prisoners, comprising 91 per cent of its total inmate population.
The report highlighted that although 11,894 prisoners in Delhi had completed half of their maximum sentence, only 1,696 had been released, indicating a low rate of release despite recommendations from the Under Trial Review Committee (UTRC).
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