State of women prisons in India: Inadequate space or absolute lack of it

The inmates, especially women with children, have never got the care and attention from governments that are laid down in the constitution as their fundamental rights, not to mention hygiene, proper sanitation facilities, access to adequate water, clean drinking water, etc.

State of women prisons in India: Inadequate space or absolute lack of it

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State of women prisons in India: Inadequate space or absolute lack of it!!

Inadequate space or lack of it – prisons in India are swelling, but the state of women’s prisons is more worrisome as according to current NCRB data, many Indian states not only have a shortage of space but also completely lack the facilities of prisons for women convicts and under-trials. The report also highlights how children who accompany their mothers to prison are forced to live in a dismal state impacting their development.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of female prisoners in India at the end of the year 2021 was 22,918 while the capacity of the 32 existing women jails in the country is enough to accommodate only 6,767 prisoners. Among the 22,918 female prisoners, 1,650 women inmates had their children with them on the jail premises. Out of 22,918 female inmates, 1,418 inmates along with 1601 children were under-trail prisoners and 216 were convicted prisoners along with 246 children.


According to the Model Prison Manual, 2016 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), a child up to six years of age shall be admitted to prison with his/her mother if the child has no other arrangements. The manual also states that no child shall be admitted into or retained in a prison if he/she has attained the age of six years.

 21 states/UTs have no women prisons… 

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of female prisoners in India at the end of the year 2021 was 22,918 while the capacity of the existing women jails in the country is enough to accommodate only 6,767 prisoners.

As per the NCRB data, in 2021, only 15 states/UTs have jails exclusively meant for women in the country. These 15 states/UTs have a total of 32 jails with a capacity of 6,767 prisoners. Only three women-only prisons were added to 29 women prisons in 14 states in the country in the year 2020.

The data states that 21 states/UTs have surprisingly no separate women prisons at all.

List of women prisons…

States/UTs No. of Jails Capacity
Rajasthan 7 998
Tamil Nadu 5 2018
Kerala 3 232
Andhra Pradesh 2 280
Bihar 2 202
Gujarat 2 410
Uttar Pradesh 2 540
Delhi 2 680
Karnataka 1 100
Maharashtra 1 262
Odisha 1 55
Mizoram 1 96
Punjab 1 320
Telangana 1 260
West Bengal 1 314


Capacity 3.39-fold less 

Going by the NCRB data, the capacity of women-only prisons in the country is 3.39 fold less than the actual number of women prisoners in the country, which is 22,918 women, prisoners, as compared to the capacity of jails to accommodate 6,767.

Only 3,808 (including 5 transgender prisoners) out of a total of 22,918 women prisoners are currently lodged in various women jails while the country has a capacity of only 6,767 women prisoners. In this situation, 19,110 prisoners are bound to be kept in regular jails in different states.

The data says 7,015 women prisoners are lodged in 148 Central jails in the country. Moreover, 10,622 prisoners are kept in 424 district jails, 1,181 in 564 sub jails, 62 in 88 open jails, and 235 in 41 special jails.

Dr. Vartika Nanda, prison reformer and founder of Tinka Tinka Prison Reforms, Recipient of Stri Shakti Puraskar, and currently the head of the journalism department at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University told the The Statesman that whatever is being done is not enough and more needs to be done. She also said that “privacy is there for women prisoners but the issue of space needs to be addressed as in the women’s jails space is there but in other jails the space is not adequate and there is a disparity between what men get and what women are given in the jails”.

Need transgender-specific prison

Shockingly, there is no separate transgender prison in the country. According to 2021 NCRB data, there is a total of 91 prisoners in jail across the country representing the transgender community.

These transgender prisoners are lodged in various jails of different states including women’s jails. Among these 91 prisoners, 54 are kept in the Central jails, 20 in district jails, five each in sub-jails and women’s jails while seven are kept in special jails across the country.

Women inmates: either cramped in inadequate space or no separate space

Uttarakhand appears to be a state which is least bothered when it comes to women prisoners. Ironically, the state with the highest female occupancy rate (178.8%) has no women jail.

About 286 women prisoners are lodged in jails with a capacity to accommodate only 160 prisoners. Out of the total of 286 women prisoners, 181 are lodged in seven district jails of Uttarakhand, having a capacity of only 144 prisoners, and 105 are lodged in the two sub jails of the state having a capacity of only 46.

In order to know the reasons behind inadequacies, the Statesman spoke to Inspector General of Prison Uttarakhand Bimla Gunjyal, but she declined to comment on the condition of women prisoners in the state. The irony won’t miss anyone that the inspector general of prison herself is a woman.

Enough female jails in Delhi: Tihar DG

Director General Tihar Sandeep Goel denied the shortage of female jails in Delhi. Speaking to The Statesman, he said, “Among 16 jails present in the National Capital, there are two women exclusive jails, which are not fully occupied.

He, however, conceded that there is a need to increase male prisons in Delhi.

When asked about the NCRB data regarding the shortage of jails in the country, the DG said, “I won’t be able to comment on the national figures, but the situation in Delhi is under control.”

Children of women inmates!!

As per NCRB data, at the end of the year 2021, there were 1,650 women inmates in the country’s jails with 1,867 children. Among them, 1,418 inmates with 1,601 children were under trial, and 216 with 246 children are convicted prisoners while 16 remain unaccounted for.

The lack of adequate space in jails for women prisoners also raises questions about the well-being of these women inmates with children. The issue of proper diet, education, and space to play for the children lodged in the jails with their mothers is rarely addressed.

Responding to a query on the issue of children, Sandeep Goyal said, “Teachers do visit jails to teach children up to the nursery, but we do not have a formal education system.”

The DG added that “a crèche is built on the jail premises, which appears to be a play school. Children also wear uniforms, play games, and indulge in different activities. Volunteers are engaged in recreational activities for the children.”