Several states have suggested introducing yoga and meditation for inmates in jails to alleviate their isolation and help them prevent suicides while in custody.
The suggestions are part of the states’ proposal to usher reforms in country’s 1,387 prisons given to the Centre. It is in response to the Supreme Court’s directions inviting states’ recommendations on how to curb the rising number unnatural deaths in jails. The top court is hearing a public interest petition that highlights the deplorable living conditions in the prisons.
Regular spiritual exercise will help prisoners overcome their depression and on their release be of an assistance to integrate with the mainstream. Seven of the 22 states have made the recommendation to “calm the prisoners’ minds” and make them better citizens.
Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the court in the case, told HT that if the SC accepts the recommendation, it will become mandatory for all the states to incorporate yoga and meditation in their jail manuals.
The states favouring spiritual exercise to reduce stress among the prisoners are Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Haryana, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Jharkhand.
National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) figures point to a spike in unnatural deaths in jails – in 2012 there were 126 incidents, in 2013 there were 115 and in 2014 there were 195. The number of natural deaths reported in jails in 2012 was 1,345, in 2013 1,482 and 2014 1507.
Almost all states have called for the appointment of a panel of permanent psychiatrists to counsel the inmates on daily basis. Agrawal said at present jails get assistance from non-government organizations (NGOs) on this front. “But, states say interaction with counselors should be regular,” he said.
There is a need to augment medical facilities for the inmates inside the jails. States want to end the practice of having a doctor on deputation to monitor the health of prisoners. They suggest there should be a panel of doctors who should be part of the jail cadre.