India has one of the least number of prisoners and one of the highest number of pre-trial detainees

Indians prisons are generally overcrowded and no one seems to talk about prisons or the inmates who occupy such correctional institutions. Seldom, we get to know about the inner workings of our correctional facilities and even lesser to compare them with other leading economies around the world. It is important because of the ability of these inmates to reintegrate themselves into the societal life almost entirely hinges upon the ability and the capacity of such correctional institutions.

India has one of the least prison population rates among the leading economies. The data we found on National Crime Records Bureau’s prison statistics in 2015 and the Institute for Criminal Policy Research showed that the perceived notion of Indian correctional facilities being incompetent is not representative of reality.

Prison Population

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According to the available data, India occupies the fifth rank in the whole world as far as the prison population is concerned. India has a total prison population of 4,19,623. Prison population here denotes the entire population of inmates within correctional facilities within the country. The highest number of prison inmates is in the United States of America. The USA’s prison population is 21,21,600. The second place belongs to China with 16,49,804 inmates. The third-place occupant is Brazil with 6,82,901 inmates and The Russian Federation occupies the fourth place with 5,90,635 inmates.

If we compare the numbers in proportion to the respective country’s population India has one of the lowest incarcerated population in the world, among the leading economies. The implications of having this large population will be dealt with in the later section of this article.

Source – Times graphics

Prison Population rate

As mentioned earlier for India’s large population, the country receives a lot of adverse response from the world media community. Realistically, if one chooses to look at the number of people incarcerated by states then one must look into the Prison population rate of that country. The prison population rate here denotes, the number of people incarcerated per 1,00,000 population.

India occupies the rank of 213 out of 222 in population rate. India has a prison population rate of 33, which if put in comparison with the leading economies of the world is a great achievement for India. The United States tops the chart with a prison population rate of 655. Russian federation’s prison population rate is 408. Brazil has a prison population rate of 328. Germany has a prison population rate of 78. China has a population rate of 118.

Pre-Trial Detainees

In this issue, India is lagging behind. We have heard the phrase ‘justice delayed, justice denied’. Pre-trail detainees here denotes people who are in prison awaiting trial. India ranks 16th in the world with a whopping 67.2% of its prison inmates are pre-trial detainees. The other major economies fared much better and their numbers are as follows- the United States of America has 21.6% of pre-trial detainees. Brazil’s percentage stands at 36.6 %. Russian Federation only has 17.7 % of pre-trial detainees. Chinese number was unavailable possibly because of the strict control over such data by the Chinese government.

This proves that there is a need of much improvement in India’s judicial system and there need to be instruments put in place to make our judicial process more efficient without compromising the gravity and the quality of the judgements.

Source – Times graphics

Female Prisoners (percentage of total inmate population)

This particular aspect of these statistics is extremely interesting. The notion that men commit more crimes than women, stand true in almost every country’s case. As far as the percentage of the female population in relation to the total prison population is concerned.  India’s female prison percentage is 4.3% and the country occupies the 116th spot out of 222 countries. India shares the spot with Bhutan. The USA’s female prison percentage is 9.8%. China has a female percentage of 6.5% and Brazil’s percentage stands at 6.9%. Russian Federation’s 8.1% of the total prison population is female. Germany comes at 5.8%.

All in all, according to these statistics India’s female prison population is much lesser in terms of percentage than the other leading economies around the world.

Occupancy rate

Occupancy rate here denotes the rate of occupancy in these country’s jails and hints at the infrastructure available to the state for correctional facilities and assorted services. India occupies the 90th position in the occupancy rate. It has an occupancy rate of 114.4% meaning Indian jails are slightly overcrowded. In comparison the USA has an occupancy rate of 103.9%, Brazil has 165.4% and the Russian Federation has 79.0%.  Once again China’s statistics are unavailable for this specific classification.

One can easily derive from the aforementioned statistics that Indian jailing infrastructure is not adequate but they are not abysmal either. Thus, India needs to balance between adding infrastructure and capacity building in this particular sector.

Outside of these comparative statistics, there are a few key takeaways from these statistics with regards to the Indian states and the status of their prison infrastructure. India has been gradually lowering its occupancy rate with each year, which indicates at the progress being made to accommodate the prisoners better. In 2013 the occupancy rate was 118.4% which came down to 117.4% in 2014 and finally to the latest (2015) 114.4%.

Source – Prison Statistics 2015, NCRB

The highest numbers of inmates were from Uttar Pradesh. A total of 88,147 inmates were reported from the stated. Madhya Pradesh reported the second highest number of inmates with 38,458 inmates reported from the state.  Maharashtra with 29,657, Bihar with 28,418 and Punjab with 23,645 inmates consecutively became the third, fourth and fifth state with the highest number of inmates.

The top three regions with the highest overcrowding in prisons are D&N Haveli (276.7%) followed by Chhattisgarh (233.9%) and Delhi (226.9%).


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