Anil Deshmukh outside Yerawada Central prison last week. Express photo
MAHARASHTRA HOME Minister’s recent announcement of a proposal of new prisons, which is under consideration, has come as a relief to prison administration. The proposal has to do with overcrowding, especially in central prisons that are over 75 per cent more crowded than their capacity.
On his visit to Yerawada central prison last week, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh announced that a proposal to construct multiple new jails with modern amenities was tabled before Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
The current capacity of 47 prisons, including nine of high-security central prisons, is 23,200, but the approximate number of inmates, at present, is close to 31,000 that is 33 per cent overcrowding. While around half the capacity of all prisons in the state is from nine central prisons, which have a total capacity of 12,800, but have a current population of close to 22,600 — overcrowding of 76 per cent. Some central prisons worst-hit by overcrowding are Yerawada (capacity of 2,449, population 5,213, overcrowding 112 per cent), Thane (1,105, 2,523, 128 per cent), Taloja (2,124, 4,390, 106 per cent). These crammed conditions persist despite coordinated prison decongestion efforts, as part of which over 10,800 inmates, undertrials as well as convicts, lodged in jail for lesser and non-heinous offences attracting less than seven years of maximum sentence, have been released either on provisional bail or parole since April.
Deshmukh had said on Friday that three days prior to that a proposal to increase the capacity of prisons in the state was tabled before the CM and Deputy CM. “We have proposed to construct new prisons with modern amenities at multiple locations in the state. Some of them will be multi-storied. Our jails have available spaces with them, which will also be used for this,” he had said.
Senior prison department officials have told The Indian Express that these new prison premises will include one central prison at Chikhali in Pimpri-Chinchwad with capacity of 3,000 and two other central prisons at Mauje Mandale in Mumbai with capacity of 4,200 and another central prison at Thane that can accommodate 2,900 inmates. Others include district prisons at Nagpur, Nashik, Palghar and Hingoli. The expansion plan also includes increasing the present capacity of Yerawada open prison by over 600.
The new central prisons in PCMC, Thane and Mumbai would ease the burden from Yerawada, Thane and Arthur Road central prisons, which are some of the most overcrowded prisons.
Prison department officials said the multi-story prison, which is under consideration at some of these places, will be on the lines of a correctional facility in Miami in the US. Officials also said overcrowding was a bigger challenge, especially in high-security central prisons, housing criminals from organised gangs and those jailed for serious and heinous crimes. Inmates have to be segregated and kept physically apart from each other, especially those from rival gangs or with possible hostility, they added.
Officials said some of the inmates, who have violent history or those involved in cases of terrorism, have to be housed separately, and that additional jails will also help prison administration better segregate the existing population from a security point of view.