Are Prisoners Persons? Yes, of Course: Human Rights of Prisoners in India

  • Joseph I Thomas Rajagiri College of Social Sciences
Keywords: Indian prisoners, human rights, prison overcrowding, undertrials, custody deaths


Prisoners are humans and are entitled to human rights (HR). However, HR violations in
prisons are still a significant concern worldwide. This article describes the rights accorded to
Indian prisoners by the Constitution, Indian and international laws, and court and government
orders. In addition, it details HR violations that Indian prisoners face by analysing governmentpublished data on prisons. This online desk research garnered data from secondary sources.
It used Prison Statistics India (PSI) 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 by National Crime
Records Bureau (NCRB) and Human Rights Cases Statistics (HRCS), 2021 by National
Human Rights Commission. It further reviewed the Nelson Mandela Rules safeguarding
the HR of prisoners, the Indian Constitution, laws, court orders on prisoners’ rights, model
prison manual, and scholarly articles and e-books discussing the HR of prisoners, violations
and strategies to retain them. This study confirmed the persisting overcrowding of Indian
jails mainly due to the prolonged detention of undertrials. Furthermore, it exposed the
increasing number of unnatural deaths in prisons and the discrepancies between data provided
by PSI and HRCS. Finally, this article recommends hiring professionals to educate prisoners
about their rights, provide free legal aid, maintain their mental health and prepare them to
reintegrate into society.