Facts & Figures

The Prison System in India

There are 1336 prisons across the country, with Maharashtra having the maximum number (210). Prisons in India are categorised as central jails (111), district jails (293), sub-jails (852), women jails (15), borstal schools (10), open jails (8), special jails (20), and other jails (8). There are no set criteria - that are common to all the states and union territories - for differentiating between these prisons.

All the states and union territories do not have central prisons and some have more than one. The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) notes that central jails are larger compared to other prisons, housing prisoners sentenced for a longer period. The total number of prisoners in central jails in 2006 was 166,740 as against the prescribed capacity of 117,242. However, central prisons not only house "prisoners sentenced for a longer period" but also under-trial prisoners. At the end of the year 2006, there were 76,662 under-trial prisoners in central jails.

Of all the 27 states that have prisons, only two do not have any district jail. Four union territories have no district jails. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of district jails in the country (50). The NCRB does not list any defining characteristics of these jails. Different states/union territories have different rules to categorise prisons as district jails. One of the criteria is their capacity to accommodate the prisoners. Another characteristic of district jails is that they house convicts with shorter sentence as compared with central jails. In Tamil Nadu, the district prisons house only those convicted prisoners who are sentenced to less than three months imprisonment. In Andhra Pradesh, prisoners sentenced up to two years are confined in district prisons while those sentenced above this period are sent to central prisons. The A.P. prison manual also provides that each central prison is also a district prison for the district in which it is located and may also be used as a district prison for the reception of prisoners from the adjoining districts in which there is no district jail.

The maximum number of prisons in India are sub-jails (852). Only four states and two union territories do not have any sub-jails. Their capacity to hold prisoners is very small. In 2006, there were 49,534 inmates in all the sub-jails in India as against the prescribed capacity of 41,187. There is little information available in the public domain about these prisons and their functioning.

There are very few prisons in the country that are meant exclusively for women prisoners (15). These exist in 11 states and 1 union territory. Women prisoners are lodged in all the different kind of prisons - central, district, and sub-jails - that have the facilities to hold them.

Open prisons have minimal security and only those prisoners with good behaviour who satisfy certain norms prescribed in the prison rules are admitted into these jails. According to the NCRB, there are 27 such jails in the country located in 13 states. None of the union territories have such prisons.

Borstal schools hold young offenders and their primary "objective is to ensure care, welfare and rehabilitation of young offenders in a different environment suitable for children and keep them away from contaminating atmosphere of the prison". There are only 10 Borstal schools in the entire country. Although the NCRB reports that these schools "cannot be treated as either a miniature jails or a substitute for it", they are administered by the prison department. These schools are different from the criminal justice regime (special homes) meant to house children less than 18 years of age who are in conflict with the law. These schools are meant for young offenders between the ages of 18 and 25.

Special jails are created to confine a particular class or classes of prisoners including those who commit serious violations of prison discipline; or those who are violent and aggressive; or those who are difficult to discipline and are either habitual offenders. There are 20 special jails in India. Only 9 states have these jails. The last category of prisons in India is classed as "other jails" by the NCRB. There are 8 such jails with 7 of them in five states and 1 in a union territory. The "other jail" in Chandigarh is "termed as 'Model Jail' having the capacity of lodging 1000 inmates".


Below are the Prison Statistics for the years 2006, 2002 and 2000. While we have relied on prison statistics brought out by the National Crime Records Bureau under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India for the years 2006 and 2000, we have relied on the figures compiled by the National Human Rights Commission for the year 2002.

Figures for 2000 are not inclusive of data from the then newly created states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal for which information was not made available by these States to the National Crime Records Bureau. We would request the readers to look for the figures for the years 2001 and 2002 brought out by the National Crime Records Bureau as these are more comprehensive than any other compilation. The contact details are given in the section on Resources Materials of this website.

We would also advise the readers to check the 'World Prison Brief' section of the website of the International Centre for Prison Studies, King's College, London which provides a world wide compilation of up-to-date prison statistics and contact details of prison departments.