KOZHIKODE: The prison statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau for 2019 on Monday
revealed that 21 per cent of convicts and 39 per cent of undertrial prisoners in Kerala jails were below 30 years of age.While jails in the state remain crowded, among a total of 3,131 convicts as of last December, 658 persons were in the 18-30 age-group. And of the 4,330 undertrial prisoners, the corresponding figure is 1,683, shows the NCRB data.
Education wise, 22 of the convicts are postgraduates while 148 possess technical degree/diploma. The statistics also confirmed that the state’s prisons were filled to 110 per cent of their capacity.
Sub-jails held 150 per cent of their capacity while central jails were at over 130 per cent. The state has a total of 55 jails including three central jails, 13 district jails, 16 sub-jails and three women’s and open jails each.
Among the total convicts, 53 per cent belonged to the OBC category while 17 per cent were from the SC category and four per cent ST.“The situation in our jails is alarming. Sending to jail is a punishment and not suffering in jail because of crowding. The latter is unconstitutional,” said G Mohan Gopal, former director of National Judicial Academy.“Increased incarceration does not deter crime anywhere. Spending on jails is unproductive and a huge burden on the exchequer,” he pointed out.
‘Use Probation of Offenders Act more often’
Former director of National Judicial Academy G Mohan Gopal said increased usage of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, is the need of the hour. The Act stipulates that if a court finds a person guilty of an offence not punishable with death or life imprisonment, it may instead release him or her on probation of good conduct. “But in Kerala, in 2018, just 88 were released on probation out of 588 offenders on whom preliminary enquiry reports were submitted to courts,” he said.
“Instead of refinement, society now wants to see the accused being hanged or sentenced to life imprisonment. This is affecting criminal justice system and results in sending more accused to jail,” observed K K Subair, special officer of ‘Nervazhi’ project which was formed to implement the Probation of Offenders Act.