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Exploring the Epidemic of Prison Violence and Torture

Violence includes torture of person in Prison, police custody and judicial custody. This have been an issue from several years and to prevent such practice there are number of ways. After the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission the poor and needy can get relief from such violence but unfortunately lack of awareness makes it impossible to resolve such violence. This study is to throw some light on the reasons, types and remedies for such prison violence and torture that happens in India. And what laws are there to protect a person from such violence.

"Torture is the wound in the soul so painful that sometimes you can almost touch it, but it is also intangible that there is no way to heal it. Torture is despair and fear and rage and hate. It is a desire to kill and destroy including yourself."[1]

We live in a country with a well-established legal system. The citizens of the country have been allowed the right to live freely and with dignity. Even if a person commits a crime, their rights cannot be taken away. However, it is extremely paradoxical that those who are supposed to safeguard rights are the ones who violate such rights.

Unfortunately, deaths in detention are not isolated events. Torture and defective arrest processes are commonly used by police in India, with little or no responsibility. There have been number of deaths reported due to custodial violence and torture. The word "custody" itself means to take care of someone. But it's a harsh reality but majority of the torture happens in the prison which violates the fundamental rights granted by the constitution.

Classification of Violence:

  1. Psychological Torture:
    which includes threatening to hurt or murder a family member, being forced to see, or depict the torture of another person, denigration or humiliation, religious violations, and so forth.
  2. Physical Torture:
    There have been several cases which involves slapping, kicking, beating, positional torture, smashing injuries, burning body parts with tools, stabbing with knives, electrical shock, mutilating body parts, dehydration, forced labour, starving and dental torture.
  3. Sexual Torture:
    Rapes or sexual torture by the prisoners or the incharge of the prisons have been reported many times.

Reasons For Prison Violence And Torture:

Once we combine individual and situational variables, we can come to face with certain reasons for the violence and torture that takes place in prisons.
  • Administrative, managerial, and procedural factors:
    This is basically how the authorities go about the working of the prison or some of its sectors. From how much time inmates will be allowed outside cells to the activities they would be allowed to undertake in the prison. Sometimes employing 'high security' to a certain sector makes them label themselves as 'hard to handle' which aggravates their behaviour to become more violent just to prove the label. These stresses cause violent actions by the prisoners.
  • Mental disorders:
    Some prisoners not yet categorised or recognised to have a mental disorder are not given the required treatment. Under the normal environment of a prison, their mental state is at risk and causes behavioural changes that can be violent as well as unexpected. Some disorders make a person short tempered and even sensitive to remarks of any kind. These do not stagnate rather pile up and increase chances of violent activities in such cases
  • Prison conditions:
    Studies by Bierie in 2012 and Rocherleau in 2013 show that better physical conditions equate to lesser violence whereas harder living environment caused an increase in violent acts against staff and inmates. Whenever reporters visit prison, there is an increase in security and after they leave the security is taken aback, during this period the prisoner's resort to higher level of violent acts as they value themselves to be required to be having high security.
  • Gang effects:
    The most prominent piece of the equation explains how prisoners who have been a part of a gang before coming to prison or even after coming to prison resolve to the 'tough guy' factor and categorise themselves into a certain so called 'prison gang'. These lead to riots between prison gangs and even staff at times. Some believe the only way to stay safe in prison environment would be by joining hands with other inmates who have the same background for example: being indulged in homicide or other theft acts in the past. This gives a place for such prisoners to brag about the acts of violence they have committed in the past.
  • Race/Ethnicity and gender differences:
    Due to non-alignment on topics such as religion and other differences based on caste which particularly in India is divided to certain sub strata of being an upper or a lower caste drives prisoners to ascertain dominance over others and this leads to violence in the form of ethnic differences. Also gender differences include that the rate of violence is higher by male inmates than female prisoners but the factors which lead to it remain the same for both.
  • Work Pressure:
    The System believe that an accused is innocent until proven guilty and to prove the suit it requires a lot of evidence as well as time and the officers have a lot of cases every day. If the officer is not able to achieve the result, he is transferred which creates pressure on the officer because of which they usually tend to use such practices that violates the rights.
  • For Money:
    A lot of officers torture the victims till the time they agree to pay money. Mostly money is extracted from an honest man by threatening him.
  • Lack of training:
    There is lack of training and skills that is required for the investigation because of which the police use force to obtain confessions and submissions. They should be educated about the human rights and the ways to protect the rights.
  • Lack of supervision:
    The investigation takes place without any supervision of the senior officer which makes them think that they are immune from any kind of strict action that could be taken to protect the victim from such violence.

Remedies available
Given the high incidence of custodial fatalities in India, both the legislature and the court have frequently proposed solutions.
  • If someone dies in police custody, the law requires that a First Information Report be filed.
  • The National Human Rights Commission has established rules for the process to be followed in the event of a death in custody. All such deaths must be notified within 24 hours to the National Human Rights Commission.
  • Article 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution provides protection for prisoners from such custodial violence. And not just the constitution, but the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1933 also provide certain provisions for the protection against torture.
  • In some cases, courts have also awarded compensation to the deceased's family.

  1. What India should do to combat the practice of torture by police personnel is to ratify the 'United Nations Convention Against Torture.'
  2. To alter the "Police Act of 1861," which contains measures designed only to repress and violate people's rights. Torture has been accused repeatedly by police of being used on convicts while they're still in their custody, as well as on under-trials once they are summoned in for questioning connected to a specific offence.
  3. To limit 'political intervention' to the greatest extent feasible. The meddling of politicians in India to have the accused of a terrible crime acknowledge commission of the deed as soon as possible has led to the police resorting to torture and other harsh tactics to get them to confess.
  4. To use media to raise public awareness and reach out to most people in the country. In India, two-thirds of the jail population comes from the SC, ST, and OBC communities, while 70% of the entire population is illiterate. People should be aware of the rights and remedies to them when their basic human rights are infringed, as well as who to contact to make a complaint against police.
  5. Grant the NHRC, India, complete investigative powers without the assistance of the police, such as the authority to launch an investigation on its own, receive communications, and consider complaints against police employees on its own.
  6. Police station should have proper CCTV cameras installed.
  7. Training and counseling of the police officials should be done so that they should know the guidelines that need to be followed and the psychological stress is reduced.

It is possible that the severity of torture is substantially worse than the data published by the organization for India. The major reason for the non-reporting of custodial torture offences in India is that the main perpetrators of this crime are the police themselves. The police usually don't file a complaint against their own co-workers, and victims are likewise reluctant to file complaints for fear of retaliation. As a result, more than half of all incidences of torture in detention in India go unreported. Therefore, custodial violence should be punishable by the special laws and awareness for the same shall be made.

  1. Said by Adriana P. Bartow.
Written By: Devanshi Sharma

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