Prisons in India

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Written by  Published in Articles Section Wednesday, 20 January 2016 00:00

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prisons in India, and their administration, is a state subject covered by item 4 under the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. The management and administration of prisons falls exclusively in the domain of the State governments, and is governed by the Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prison manuals of the respective state governments. Thus, states have the primary role, responsibility and authority to change the current prison laws, rules and regulations.[1] The Central Government provides assistance to the states to improve security in prisons, for the repair and renovation of old prisons, medical facilities, development of borstal schools, facilities to women offenders, vocational training, modernization of prison industries, training to prison personnel, and for the creation of high security enclosures.

The Supreme Court of India, in its judgments on various aspects of prison administration, has laid down 3 broad principles regarding imprisonment and custody. Firstly, a person in prison does not become a non-person. Secondly, a person in prison is entitled to all human rights within the limitations of imprisonment. Lastly, there is no justification for aggravating the suffering already inherent in the process of incarceration.[2]

Types of prisons

Entrance to the Central Prison in Viyyur, Thrissur district, Kerala.
A section of the Madras Central Prison before demolition in 2009.

Prison establishments in India comprise 8 categories of jails. The most common and standard jail institutions are Central Jails, District Jails and Sub Jails. The other types of jail establishments are Women Jails, Borstal Schools, Open Jails and Special Jails.[3]

TypeNumberTotal Capacity
Central Jails 85 152,312
District Jails 364 135,439
Sub Jails 758 45,564
Women Jails 19 4,837
Open Jails 54 5,070
Borstal Schools 20 2,108
Special Jails 37 10,766
Other Jails 4 465

Central jail

The criteria for a jail to be categorised as a Central Jail varies from state to state. However, the common feature observed throughout India is that prisoners sentenced to imprisonment for a long period (more than 2 years) are confined in the Central Jails, which have larger capacity in comparison to other jails. These jails also have rehabilitation facilities.

Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have the highest number of 9 Central Jails each followed by Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi with 8 each. Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep do not have any Central Jails.[3]

District jail

District jails serve as the main prisons in States/UTs where there are no Central Jails.[4]

States which have considerable number of District Jails are Uttar Pradesh (53), Bihar (30), Maharashtra and Rajasthan (25 each), Madhya Pradesh (22), Assam (21), Jharkhand (17), Haryana (16) and Karnataka (15).[3]

Sub jail

Sub jails are smaller institutions situated at a sub-divisional level in the States.[4]

Ten states have reported comparatively higher number of sub-jails revealing a well-organized prison set-up even at lower formation. These states are Maharashtra (172), Andhra Pradesh (96), Tamil Nadu (94), Madhya Pradesh (92), Karnataka (74), Odisha (66), Rajasthan (60), West Bengal (31), Kerala (29) and Bihar (16). Odisha had the highest capacity of inmates in various Sub-Jails.

8 States/UTs have no sub-jails namely Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Chandigarh and Delhi.[3]

Borstal School

Borstal Schools are a type of youth detention center and are used exclusively for the imprisonment of minors or juveniles. The primary objective of Borstal Schools is to ensure care, welfare and rehabilitation of young offenders in an environment suitable for children and keep them away from contaminating atmosphere of the prison. The juveniles in conflict with law detained in Borstal Schools are provided various vocational training and education with the help of trained teachers. The emphasis is given on the education, training and moral influence conducive for their reformation and prevention of crime.[5]

Ten States namely, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have borstal schools in their respective jurisdictions. Tamil Nadu had the highest capacity for keeping 667 inmates. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are the only states that have the capacity to lodge female inmates in 3 of their Borstal Schools. There are no borstal schools in any of the UTs.[3]

Open jail

Open jails are minimum security prisons. Prisoners with good behaviour satisfying certain norms prescribed in the prison rules are admitted in open prisons. Prisoners are engaged in agricultural activities.

Fourteen states have functioning Open Jails in their jurisdiction. Rajasthan reported the highest number of 23 open jails. There are no Open Jails in any of the UTs.[3]

Special jail

Special jails are high security facilities that have specialized arrangements for keeping offenders and prisoners who are convicted of terrorism, insurgency and violent crimes.[4] Special jail means any prison provided for the confinement of a particular class or particular classes of prisoners which are broadly as follows:

  • Prisoners who have committed serious violations of prison discipline.
  • Prisoners showing tendencies towards violence and aggression.
  • Difficult discipline cases of habitual offenders.
  • Difficult discipline cases from a group of professional/organised criminals.

Kerala has the highest number of special jails - 9. Provision for keeping female prisoners in these special jails is available in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Gujarat, Kerala, Assam, Karnataka and Maharashtra.[3]

Other jails

Jails that do not fall into the categories discussed above, fall under the category of Other Jails. Three states - Goa, Karnataka & Maharashtra - have 1 other jail each in their jurisdiction. No other state/UT has an other jail.

The capacity of inmates (male & female) reported by these three States in such jails was highest in Karnataka (250) followed by Goa (45) and Maharashtra (28).[3]


All states and UTs in India had a combined sanctioned budget of 32751.22 million (US$490 million) in 201-13 for prison related expenditure.

Prison expenditure is broadly categorised as Plan Expenditure and Non-Plan Expenditure. Expenditure on specific planned activities under the Five Year Plan is termed as Plan Expenditure. Expenditure made for meeting day-to-day expenses and running establishments like payment of salaries, wages, rent, etc. come under the Non-Plan Expenditure. Non-Plan Expenditure may also include activities for development of existing infrastructure and bringing about improvements in the prisons.

Expenditure on prison inmates is categorised as Food, Clothing, Medical, Vocational/Educational facilities, Welfare and Other expenses. Food expenses account for more than half the total expenditure on prison inmates.[6]

Prison population statistics

As of 31 December 2014, there are 1387 functioning jails in India having a total capacity to house 356,561 prisoners. As of the same date, there were 418,536 inmates in jails across in India. Males at 400,855 make up 95.8% of prisoners while females at 17,681 represent 4.2%.[7]

Types of prison inmates

Prison inmates lodged in Indian jails are categorised as Convicts, Undertrials and Detenues.[8] A convict is "a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court" or "a person serving a sentence in prison".[9] An undertrial is a person who is currently on trial in a court of law.[10] A detenu is any person held in custody.[11][12]

Prison inmates lodged in Indian jails in relation to non-Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes are classified as civil prisoners. They consist of Convicts and Undertrials.


The following table gives the population and occupancy rate of prisons in India annually:

YearNo. of InmatesOccupancy Rate[a]
2009[13]       122.8%
2010[13]       115.1%
2011[13] 356,902 16,024 372,926 112.1%
2012[14] 368,184 16,951 385,135 112.2
2013       118.4
2014[15] 400,855 17,681 418,536 117.4%
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