Prison Conditions in India

Despite the checks and balances inherent in India’s democratic structure designed to curb government lawlessness, the institutional basis for the prison system has become grossly unfair. In some major cities anyone unlucky enough to be arrested faces a far greater likelihood of torture or worse at the hands of the police than in many countries entirely lacking in the protections for civil liberties available in India. Prisons are supposed to be levelling institutions in which the variables that affect the conditions of confinement are expected to be the criminal records of their inmates and their behavior. In Indian prisons, however, there exists a rigid class system that is explicitly mandated by law, where special privileges are accorded to the minority of prisoners who come from the upper or middle classes, irrespective of the crimes they may have committed or the way that they comport themselves in prison. As this report shows, it is a system filled with contradictions not unlike those permeating Indian society as a whole.

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