" The Indian criminal justice system seems to be dealing with two broad categories of people: those who live above the law and those who are absolutely crushed by it."
In India, 71% of the prison population is either illiterate or educated below 10th standard . Majority of these people remain in prison pending trial or conviction. Most recent statistics reveal that over 67% of the prisoners are under-trials and they may continue to be held in overcrowded prisons for years. This makes them one of the weakest constituencies in the society.
Poor public defense and under-utilization of non-custodial measures add to the growing malaise of unnecessary or prolonged detention. Lack of inspections and sketchy implementation of oversight mechanisms turn prisons into frightening wrecks with shoddy living conditions. This rot in the criminal justice system impacts the psychological condition of a prisoner making him more vulnerable than before to criminal propensities. He gets out of prison ruined and not reformed.
We believe that a person behind bars is not beyond justice. Hence, we aim to bridge the gap that the system suffers from. We ensure that the legal safeguards reach out to the last person in the queue – the prisoner by increasing transparency of a traditionally closed system and holding the stakeholders accountable for the gaps. We continue to stress on oversight of prison conditions, enhancement of legal aid practices, reform of prison management and foster an attitude of cooperation between the various agencies of the criminal justice system namely, judiciary, lawyers, probation officers, prison administration and police. From time to time, we use the RTI tool to open up the prison and various other agencies of criminal justice system. We seek to achieve our goals through research, legal analysis and advice, advocacy, capacity building and network building. Over the years, we have worked in different parts of the country since prison is a state subject. We concentrate on monitoring demonstration projects on legal aid, court practices and jail reforms. Currently, we work in Rajasthan and West Bengal.