Observing that most prisoners do not have any family support, Vaigai, in her report said, “We found at Vellore that most convicts were without petticoats and wore torn blouses. On enquiry and verification of records, it was found that materials for the clothes were being requisitioned, but not supplied in some years.”
Seeking the court to issue urgent orders for supply of different sizes of petticoats and blouses to all women prisoners throughout the state and increase it to three sets, the report stated, “Since most women are abandoned by their families on arrest, even the remand prisoners need to be given regular supply of clothes. We found many elderly women were arrested as repeat offenders. They have no outside support and were complaining of false cases and none from the family taking them out on bail,” she added.
Further, on the utter lack of medical care for both men and women prisoners, Vaigai said, “Prisoners who need consultation with specialists or in-patient treatment in Government Hospitals do not get timely help. The prison administration is unable to send them to hospitals since the police department fails to spare cops as escorts for the prisoners. It was unanimously pointed out both by officials and doctors that escorts are made available only on a limited number on Saturdays, when none of the specialists OP function.”
Citing the case in Madurai Central Jail and Special prison for women wherein prisoners get their drinking water from taps which are sunk below the ground level and placed in a circular cement tank, the report said, “What was most horrifying was that this drinking water source from borewells was next to a huge septic tank that had overflown and was seeping into the ground adjacent to the drinking water source.”
In Vellore Central prison, while RO purified water is supplied in taps only for one hour early in the morning and in the evening before lock up, it still remains insufficient for all the 1,336 prisoners resulting in them purchasing water at Rs 30 per can, the report noted that the situation of remand prisoners was most horrifying.
“As many as 129 prisoners were packed in a single dormitory meant for 50 prisoners. There is a water tank made of cement for storage near the toilet inside the dormitory. The prisoners store water from an underground sump for toilet purposes in a few buckets. Since lock-up is at 5.30 pm till 6.30 am the next day, the same is used for drinking too,’ the report added.
No care for aged and infirm prisoners
Convicts with mental illness are in a pathetic state, in very poor hygiene with hardly any psychiatric support, apart from the medicines that are given to them, said a report submitted to the Madras High Court on Thursday.
Taking note of the Status report filed by the State that there were 157 deaths of convict prisoners during the years 2012-16, the division bench comprising S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad appointed Senior Counsel R Vaigai as Amicus Curiae to make a detailed study and submit a report for improvisation of medical and other facilities in prisons in the State.
The bench on recording the report submitted by the amicus posted the case for further hearing to November 13, after directing the government to respond. “In all the Central prisons, there are prisoners with mental illness of varying degrees. They had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression etc. But they are merely isolated in separate blocks and a life-convict is made as their care-giver. There is no active rehabilitation possible inside the prison,” the report said.
Citing the case of one Paulraj (78) of Madurai Central Prison, who suffers from schizophrenia and is totally blind, the report said, “Twice he has been recommended by the prison authorities for release, but the government’s decision is awaited. There are other mentally ill convicts in Madurai Central Prison while in Vellore Central prison there are 13 convicts with mental illness.”
“It is therefore necessary to review all the cases of mentally ill convicts for premature release. Pending such review, all mentally ill convicts need to be removed from the confines of the prison and taken for institutional psychiatric care,” the report said.
Also, highlighting the abysmal conditions of many prisoners who are old and infirm with physical disability, no eyesight and other diseases, Vaigai in her report said, “We were informed that in some cases recommendations for pre-mature release were pending, but in some they were rejected for lack of eligibility criteria under the amnesty scheme of the state government.”
However, the report on wondering as to whether the State Government has taken note of the judgement of this court in 2016 wherein general directions for the release of such prisoners under Rule 341 of the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983, sought the court to issue appropriate directions to review the cases of all convicts above 65 years of age and consider them for premature release in conformity with the High Court judgement.
The report on highlighting the plight of students in judicial custody, said the students complained that they have been falsely booked for bike theft and chain snatching. But after they came inside the prison they are booked for various similar cases of bike theft and chain snatching resulting in them having multiple cases of the same offences against them and allege that they have been arrested falsely.
Holding that the students are worried and confused about the future and career in their life, the report sought for a direction to enable the remand prisoners-students to take their exams in time.