The Byculla women's prison had a mutiny on its hands over the weekend, as prisoners protested over the custodial death of a 40-year-old fellow inmate, who was allegedly assaulted by jail staffers. Now, an inquiry has been ordered by the authorities, and six jail personnel - including an officer - have been suspended for dereliction of duty.
Incensed on learning of her death, the inmates breached high-security arrangements and climbed to the terrace of the 15-foot building, hurling utensils and stones at the administration and ransacking the premises. While the crisis was brought under control, the authorities should now ensure that the investigation and suspension of the officials is not just lip service to placate people.
One is fully cognizant of the fact that there are two sides to every story, and the prisoners too need to obey the rules to avoid conflict and problems inside. Having said that, there have been quite a few reports about violence inside prisons, beatings by wardens and staffers, ill treatment of prisoners.
The death of an inmate is an extreme episode. We need to take a serious look at the issue. While some officials claim she died of an ailment, a heart attack, the prisoners believe otherwise. This is indicative of the huge breach of trust within the jail. One way to start closing these gaps is to do a thorough, foolproof investigation into this death. Cosmetic measures will not do. Get to the bottom of this and, if there has been a lapse on the part of any authorised personnel inside, swift action is key. Punishment is necessary, as it will not only send a strong message to the culprits but, more importantly, it will convince inmates that they can get justice even behind bars. That they are not just statistics trapped in a failing system.
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