To tackle the severe overcrowding in the jails of Maharashtra, especially the high-security central prisons, the state government is considering a proposal to build two new jails in Pune and Mumbai, prison department officials told The Indian Express. While the Yerawada Central Prison in Pune is filled more than twice its capacity, the Thane and Arthur Road Prisons in Mumbai house inmates around thrice their capacity.
At present, the state has nine high-security central prisons and 45 district prisons. As per the figures from the Maharashtra State Prison Department on November 15, the total capacity of these 54 prisons is 23,942 and they currently hold 32,752 prisoners, an excess of 37 per cent. Of these, a total of 8,730 are convicts, around 100 are under preventive detention and 23,928 are undertrials.
The nine central jails have a capacity of 14,841. They currently hold 22,859 inmates, an excess of 54 per cent. Of these, three jails — Yerawada Central Jail in Pune and Arthur Road and Thane Central Jails in Mumbai — are the worst-affected by overcrowding. While the total capacity of Yerawada Central Prison is 2,449 (2,323 men and 126 women), the total number of inmates is 4,966 (4,735 men and 2,31 women), an excess of 102 per cent. For the Arthur Road jail, the capacity is 804.It currently occupies 2,735 inmates, an excess of 240 per cent. For Thane Central Jail, the number of inmates is 3,050 as against the capacity of 1,080, an excess of 182 per cent.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Additional Director General of Police and State Prison Department Head Bhushankumar Upadhyay said, “As an immediate remedy to the serious problem of overcrowding, extra barracks are currently being built inside Yerawada, Thane and Arthur Road prisons. But as a long-term plan, a proposal is currently under consideration of the state government to build two new prisons in Pune and Mumbai. After the primary approval is received, the process of finding land and resources will commence. Considering the extent of the issue, building new prisons seems to be the only logical solution.”
Another prison department official said, “The extent of overcrowding by double or triple the capacity is even a bigger challenge in the high-security prisons which house dreaded criminals from organised gangs. They have to be segregated and kept physically apart from each other. Some of the inmates who have violent history or are involved in cases of terrorism also need to be kept separately. Though the overcrowding is the factor in two or three, the challenges are of even higher magnitude. So, we expect that the new jails will not just have the capacity to take the burden away from the prisons in Pune and Mumbai, they will also have adequate planning for the segregation of the inmates.”
A jail department officer pointed out that the issue of overcrowding exists in spite of the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling to grant bail to inmates who have already spent one half of the maximum term for the offence, with exception of those held for terrorism cases and those held for very serious offences.
“In 2011-12, the actual number against the capacity of prisons in the state was 22,952 against 22,295 — an excess of just three per cent. But that number, as on November 15 this year, is 32,752 against 23,942, an excess of 37 per cent. This shows that the infrastructure of prisons in the state has not increased as per the requirement. This type of overcrowding, especially in central prisons, means that the correctional facilities in jails fall short of the requirement. It defeats the very purpose of the system,” the officer said.