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The case of Kerala's overcrowded jails

Last updated on: June 20, 2009 23:22 IST

Jails in Kerala are overcrowded, says a report published by a human rights organisation on the basis of a written statement received by it from the state jail headquarters on its application under the Right to Information Act.

According to the report, the 41 jails in the state -- with has a maximum capacity of housing 4,309 prisoners -- is presently accommodating 6,628 people.

The Thiruvananthapuram central jail, which can accommodate a maximum of 727 prisoners, is now housing 1,453 people. Viyyur central prison which can house 376 people is now crowded with 553 prisoners. Kannur central jail, which has a capacity of 1,086, is now accommodating 1,206 prisoners.

The report also states that 57 per cent of the prisoners are undertrials.  It may be recalled that there were instances of convicts and trial prisoners fighting against each other in Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur central jails. There have also been several instances of fights between trial convicts of different political parties in the Kannur central prison.

The strength of the Jail staff is also woefully inadequate. In most prisons, day to day activities are managed by wardens, who are either on temporary basis or on daily wages. This makes the matters more worse as these wardens does not hold any control over hardened criminals. There have been instances of prisoners threatening the wardens and in some cases, leaders of the political parties also collude with the prisoners against jail wardens.

Arun Lakshman in Thiruvananthapuram