Prisons across the country were also home last year to nearly 2,000 children below the age of six years who were forced to live there with their mothers,the National Crime Records Bureau has found.
Although Supreme Court guidelines say they should be kept away from the barracks where their mothers are lodged,officials said it has not always been practical to do so.
The 2012 data compiled by the NCRB from 1,394 prisons in the country also shows that 1.2 per cent of inmates were suffering from mental illnesses.
The data shows 1,813 children were living with their mothers in prisons,with jails in Uttar Pradesh topping the list with 431,followed by West Bengal (220),Madhya Pradesh (163),Bihar (151) and Jharkhand (132).
There are strict SC guidelines on how to deal with children of women inmates,both undertrials and convicts. We try not to keep the children with their mothers in the barracks but sometimes it is not possible as they are too small to be left alone, said IG (prisons),West Bengal,Ranvir Kumar.
We then show some leniency and allow them in prisons at nights. We have to be considerate when it comes to children who are as young as an infant. West Bengal has a higher number as most of these women are from Bangladesh and have been arrested under the Foreigners Act for illegally crossing into the country, he said.
The NCRB also found that as many as 44,470 inmates had mental illnesses,with Orissa accounting for 496 cases,followed by Andhra Pradesh (443),Karnataka (383),Haryana (362) and Kerala (296).
Although the jail manual says that mentally ill prisoners should be sent to asylums,it is not possible all the time as the degree of illness also varies. We try to keep such prisoners in separate wards and have convicts man their wards so that they do not inflict any injury on themselves. They are treated at the jail hospitals and there have been instances where such prisoners have recovered also, said a senior jail official.
The data also shows Chhattisgarh saw a surge in the number of inmates in 2012 with the states prisons recording an occupancy rate of over 250 per cent,with a total of 14,780 people in its jails. Most of those in jail had been arrested in anti-Maoist operations,officials said.
There were 414 convicts,including 13 women,on death row across the country.