Prison conditions

Supreme Court asks states to take measures to reduce unnatural deaths in prisons

The bench asked authorities to provide support staff to help suicidal prisoners and also study the overall conditions of jails and the facilities available.

The Supreme Court on Friday asked all High Courts to register a suo motu Public Interest Litigation to identify the kin of those who died unnatural deaths in prison from 2012 to 2015 and provide them compensation, The Indian Express reported. The bench gave the order after hearing a PIL highlighting the problematic conditions of prisons in India.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 551 unnatural deaths, including 328 suicides, in prisons between 2012 and 2015, of which 70 suicides were reported in 2015. The National Human Rights Commission’s monograph published in 2014 said that between 2007 and 2011, suicides accounted for 71% of unnatural deaths in jails.

Referring to this monograph, the Supreme Court said, “The study...suggests that there are two primary causes for jail suicides – the first is the environment in the jail, which is apparently conducive to suicidal behaviour, and the second is the crisis situation faced by an inmate.”

The court asked states to provide counselors or support staff to help suicidal prisoners and carry out a study of the overall conditions in jails and the facilities available, including a performance audit. It suggested increasing visiting hours for relatives and allowing prisoners to interact with both their families and lawyers through phones and video conferencing.

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