Slow rate of disposal of cases resulting in higher number of undertrials is one of the main reasons behind overpopulated prisons.
Prison authorities have opened new facilities at Mandoli of northeast Delhi with the aim to ease congestion in Tihar jail. Factors ranging from operationlisation of more police stations and better detection rates of crime, among others, have been cited for triggering an upward trend in prison occupancy.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Raj Kumar, Additional Inspector-General (Prisons) who is also the spokesperson of Tihar jail, said, “Prison occupancy is increasing. As of 22 January 2018, our total prison population was 15,050. Today, it is 15,968—an increase of 918 inmates. So we were looking for alternatives.”
The Mandoli jail became operational in October 2016. It has six prisons—a women’s cell, a high-risk prison and four undertrial cells. The new complex has a capacity to house 3,776 prisoners at a time. Speaking about the capacity of the women cell at Mandoli, Kumar said, “It can accommodate 280 women prisoners, while there are already 212 inmates.”
Prison reports suggest that one of the underlying factors for overcrowding in the prisons is the higher ratio of undertrials to convicts. “The percentage of convicts is 20% while that of undertrials is 80%. There are 3,104 convicts till date while more than 12,700 are undertrial,” added Kumar. The Mandoli jail has a multi-level prison building with high security cells that have good prisoner-tracking system, laser fences along the periphery wall and round-the-clock security cover.
The cells are powered by rooftop solar-powered plant installed in the prison complex. “The whole jail has solar lighting facility. We generate around 732 KW of solar power. We also have LED light units in the prison,” he added.
AIG Kumar also mentioned that an additional 600 to 700 CCTV cameras will be installed inside the prison. “The CCTV coverage in Tihar and Rohini is for six to seven days only, whereas in Mandoli, it is for 30 days,” said Kumar.
Another factor behind overcrowding of jails that Kumar pointed out is the rate of disposal of cases. “If the rate of disposal of cases increases, then the population of prisoners will gradually decrease and vice-versa.”
The Mandoli Jail Complex, which was inaugurated on 4 March, is set to lodge high-risk prisoners and some of the country’s high-risk prisoners are likely to be shifted from Tihar to Mandoli. AIG Kumar said there are two parameters for placing such prisoners in a particular jail.
“First, they are registered as criminals committing heinous crimes. Second, those who violate prison rules and regulations quite frequently,” he added. On whether names like infamous mobster Chhota Rajan, serving life imprisonment at Tihar jail, will be included in the list of transfers to Mandoli, Kumar clarified that there are no such plans as of now.
The features at the Mandoli complex include yoga, meditation, hobby classes and various sports activities for the inmates. However, many other programmes have been added to the list, which include drug de-addiction centre, free legal aid etc.
One of the main focuses will be on the reformation and rehabilitation of the inmates. After release, the prisoners will be provided with rehabilitation programmes. “Our main concentration is on rehabilitation of the prisoners, which is why we are trying to operate as many skill centres in the jail as possible,” AIG added.