Children Behind Bars: A Closer Look at India’s Prison Crisis

Children Behind Bars: A Closer Look at India's Prison Crisis

A legal justice non-profit, iProbono, conducted a study revealing alarming statistics: over the span of six years, 9,681 children have been unjustly confined in adult prisons in India. Titled “Incarceration of Children in Prisons in India,” the study draws from data sourced through 124 Right to Information (RTI) applications filed between April 2022 and March 2023, spanning across 28 states and two union territories.

The report was launched on 11th May 2024, at the New Delhi’s India Islamic Cultural Center, by two children in conflict with law, who lost their crucial years being lodged in prison. The report reads that, “The data we received indicates that at least 9,681 children were wrongly incarcerated in adult prisons across the country between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2021.” One of the presenters of this study, was wrongfully imprisoned

The Alarming Observations

1. Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh: District prison Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh stood out with 294 children transferred to adult prisons over six years, despite no visits from Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs). Among the five central jails in UP, only Central Prison Naini transferred children, with 203 cases during the study period.

2. Bihar’s Scenario: In Bihar’s Araria district prison and Central Prison Bhagalpur, the number of children identified by JJBs exceeded those actually transferred from prisons to juvenile homes.

3. Missing Data: Notably, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, two states with significant prison populations, failed to respond to RTI queries, as per the report. This lack of transparency poses a significant challenge in addressing the issue.

4. Overcrowding Concerns: The study coincides with the overcrowding crisis in Indian prisons, as highlighted in the 2023 Prison Statistics India Report. This overcrowding raises concerns about the mental and physical well-being of children in conflict with the law (CCLs) housed in these facilities.

5. Inadequate Juvenile Justice Board Visits: Despite the need for regular monitoring, the study reveals a stark disparity in JJB visits to adult prisons across states. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, where 2,914 children were transferred from adult jails, there were only 70 recorded JJB visits. Similarly, Bihar saw a mere 34% response rate regarding children transferred and only 95 JJB visits.

6. Regional Disparities: The study underscores regional variations in response rates and data accuracy. While Haryana exhibited a high response rate of 90% and reported 1,621 children transferred, the national capital had a meager 38% response rate, indicating possible underreporting.

7. Specific Cases: The report highlights peculiar cases such as Jammu and Kashmir, where only one child was reported to be transferred, and Odisha, where no children were transferred. Additionally, one of the prisons in Goa admitted to not maintaining records of the information sought, further complicating the assessment of the situation.

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About the Author: Hemansh Tandon