Punjab jails crammed 150 percent beyond capacity

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS
Friday, December 10, 2010

CHANDIGARH - A space for 46 being occupied by 136 people — that is the sorry state in the jail in Punjab’s Moga town and in most other prisons in the state which are packed way beyond their capacity, leading to frequent fights and drug abuse.

And with many cases pending in courts, the situation can only worsen, officials say.

“On an average, there is an over-population of 149 percent in various district jails of Punjab,” says a report of the Punjab Jail Reforms Committee.

If the sub jail in Moga, about 200 km from here, is packed to 295 percent beyond its capacity, the one at Muktsar in south-west Punjab, for instance, also houses 200 inmates against a sanctioned capacity of 69.

And things are no better in other bigger prisons across Punjab, the report adds.

One of Punjab’s biggest prisons, the Central Jail in Jalandhar city, 150 km from here, has 1,436 prisoners against a sanctioned capacity of 625.

It is also the most notorious for the illegal use of mobile phones and drugs by the inmates.

The report added that the most overpopulated jails were in Moga, Muktsar, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Fazilka and Phagwara.

The other large jails in Punjab are located in Amritsar, Nabha, Ludhiana and Ferozepur, and are home to terrorists, smugglers and other notorious criminals.

Most of the prisoners in these jails are under-trials, while 20-25 percent are convicts serving their jail terms.

Prison officials say the overcrowding is increasing every month as pending cases keep piling up in courts.

“The facilities have remained the same in the last few years while the number of prisoners has gone up many times. What can we do about it? We have to accommodate the prisoners being sent by courts, even if it means going much beyond the capacity,” a prison official in Jalandhar told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The Punjab government has come up with a scheme to build accommodation inside some jail premises to enable spouses of inmates to stay with them for a few days. The state’s prison department has already started public call office (PCO) facility inside some of the jails this year.

But inmates say such steps won’t ease conditions inside the jails.

“Facilities are very poor and ill-kept and too many prisoners are lodged inside the jails,” ex-jail inmate Gurmukh Singh said.

The authorities are also planning to install mobile phone jammers in some of the jails like Jalandhar and Nabha to tackle the menace of illegal use of mobile phones.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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