Open jails, training to deal with women inmates needed: MHA

Open jails, training to deal with women inmates needed: MHA

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked states to warm up to the "progressive idea" of open jails, providing video chat facility for prisoners and make officials undergo attitudinal change training to sensitively deal with women inmates.

The suggestions from the MHA in the form of a letter to the states comes after a report of the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women on 'Women in Detention and Access to Justice' flagged concerns about the overall situation in Indian prisons.

As the jails in the country were making headlines for the wrong reasons, such as overcrowding and inhuman treatment of inmates, including women, the MHA has asked states to immediately collate prison-wise information on the inflow and outflow of inmates and prison capacity.

It has also asked states to develop time-bound strategies for each prison to tackle overcrowding.

The states were asked to set up open jails and go for e-prisons projects.

In a February meeting, the issue of providing the facility of video chat to prisoners were also discussed along with the concept of open jails, the letter said.

One of the main points in the MHA missive was to provide "suitable intelligence training and specific attitudinal change training for developing a positive attitude towards women prisoners" to meet their specific needs.

This suggestion came after the "perturbed" parliamentary panel pointed out that women prisoners undergo emotional and psychological trauma more compared to their male counterparts but jail staff sometimes indulge in "irresponsible behaviour" creating "serious compromise upon the rights of women inmates and their access to justice".

It had also highlighted that jails still do not have enough psychologists or psychiatrists to help them.

The lack of staff also has found due attention with the letter suggesting to the states to make an assessment of staff shortage and conduct special recruitment drives to fill up vacancies.

Keeping in mind the psychological impact a jail term can have on inmates, especially women, it also sought the immediate recruitment of psychiatrists and psychologists as well as doctors.

Ensuring security in jails, the MHA also wants states to formulate a policy to determine where CCTVs should be installed, keeping in mind the privacy and safety of prisoners.

The MHA also wanted the states to make foreign prisoners avail the facilities given while undergoing sentence in their country.

It wanted prison officials to be sensitised about the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement and the administration should provide a list of countries where such pacts exist.

On the concerns raised on the skill development of women prisoners, the recommendation from the Centre is to set up a placement cell in prison headquarters for facilitating post-release employment of inmates.

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