State of Hygiene in Indian Prisons

State of Hygiene in Indian Prisons

State of Hygiene in Indian Prisons

This article is an attempt at understanding the state of physical hygiene in Indian prisons. It aims to analyse the current state of physical hygiene in Indian prisons, the need for better hygiene, the various steps that have been undertaken and the existing shortcomings and also cite possible remedial measures for the future. Prisons are meant to primarily reform people. Instilling a sense of hygiene and sanitation is a very vital step towards ensuring that these reformed individuals are also healthy citizens, as a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

This article aims to answer the following research questions:

  • What are the prevalent international norms for hygiene in prisons?
  • Where do Indian prisons stand with respect to this?
  • What are the shortcomings with respect to hygiene in Indian prisons and how does it affect prisoners?
  • Whether any norms exist with regards to hygiene management in Indian prisons?
  • How can these shortcomings be overcome?


In this article, I intend to touch upon these aspects of hygiene:

  • Personal hygiene- brushing and bathing
  • Kitchen hygiene- the common eating facility shared by the inmates
  • Hygiene of cells
  • Prison healthcare facilities
  • Lavatories in prisons


The All India Prison Reforms Committee, also known as the Mulla Committee, worked on the aspect of prison reforms between 1980-1983. The committee, had submitted a report, detailing how the existing set up of jails could be improved. They had covered all the aspects- medical, administrative, hygiene etc.

In 2015, the MHA submitted another report, which detailed the implementation of the aforementioned report, which disclosed the following points:

  • There seems to be a lack of water based flush type toilets in jails- in some states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, there was a 50 per cent shortage of such toilets.
  • There is also a major dependence on open pan based toilets- with Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, having a major chunk of their toilets in jails in this form- there is an urgent need to discard this system and use water based flush toilets.
  • Many states have not taken any steps to assess the status of prison sanitation, hygiene, kitchen and treatment of sick prisoners. Furthermore, no mandate has been set for medical officers, psychiatrists and psychiatric social workers. It was also found that in about nine states and Union territories, no post of Medical Officers has been created to look into the healthcare of detainees in jails and correctional homes.
  • However, a major positive that has been found is that, in about 23 states and Union territories, the medical officer’s post has been designated to be second only to the jail superintendent. This has enabled this post to assist the jail superintendent in all major activities; especially helping the jail superintendent in emergency situations.


The International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC), has come up with a set of stringent norms to ensure that detainees are allowed equitable access to basic amenities associated with maintenance of hygiene and sanitation

With regards to water these measures have been suggested:

  • Availability of water 24 hours a day
  • There should be adequate water purification and portable systems available. These must also adhere to WHO standards.
  • There should be different entry points for men, women and juveniles to water. Furthermore, there should be multiple sources of water in order to avoid conflict.
  • There should be adequate water sources installed throughout the detention facility, at different places, for optimum usage.
  • “Ground reservoirs” or “water towers” should be available to hold water for emergency purposes.

With regards to toiletry system, these measures have been advised:

  • Construction of one toilet to cater to 25 detainees. There should be similar provisions for single or multiple holding cells to ensure immediate and sufficient access.
  • There should be availability of one shower per 50 detainees with allowance for a bath at least 3 times per week.
  • Each toilet block must be equipped with one tap for availing the facility of washing hands.

Cleaning and maintenance of toilets:

  • This could be carried out by forming a dedicated team of detainees specifically delegated with this task.
  • They should be equipped with requisite machinery and means, which are to be kept in a concentrated storage space.
  • The dedicated team should be given adequate training and mandate to manage the cleaning system.
  • In case, a situation arises when the toilets are blocked or becomes out of commission, urgent action should be undertaken to ensure that the hygiene conditions do not worsen.


The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), suggested a slew of measures to improve hygiene in Indian prisons, in its model prison manual:

  • Prisons should have one urinal facility (commonly termed as a latrine), installed for 10 persons. The ratio of usage of such facilities during day time can be one unit per six persons.
  • The latrines should be constructed on a higher base ground, where sun rays are reachable, but rain water does not have sufficient access. The excreta should be able to go through the receptacles.
  • The latrines should be equipped with foot rests next to the seats. There should be glazed ceramic tiles as further away from the floors as possible.
  • There should be bathing cubicle in the ratio of 1:10, with access depending on prevalent climate conditions.
  • There should be facilities for the purpose of rain water harvesting, recycle of water and keep up to 135 litres of water for fulfilling an individual’s needs.
  • The kitchen should cater to up to 250 prisoners. These facilities should be well lighted, cleaned daily and also be far from sleeping barracks. There should be fly proof wire mesh and exhaust fans. There should be smoke detectors in the room as well to deal with the fire hazards.
  • There should be no caste or religious bias in handling kitchen duties. LPG, Kneading machines, chapati making machines, mixers and grinders should be added as well. Utensils made of stainless steel should be preferred.
  • The tiles in kitchen walls should be up to a height of 2 meters for cleanliness purposes.
  • There should be adequate number of wards and beds to deal with men and women patients separately. All central and district prisons should have hospital facilities to cater to at least 5 per cent of the inmates at any point in time.
  • The prison facility should have adequate inlets for access to fresh air and light. Impermeable material should be used for construction of prison walls and bathrooms. Bathrooms should be constructed close for prisoners to have access. There should be sufficient walking space for patients to have access to refreshment.

The prison hospital, should ideally be at the entrance of a jail and also consist of:

  • Ward for patients
  • Toilet and bathing facilities at the rate of one for every five patients
  • Store room for hospital furniture and equipment
  • Dressing cum-injection room
  • Room for minor surgery
  • Room for laboratory
  • Room for the Medical Officer.
  • Isolation rooms for accommodating patients with infectious and contagious diseases (such as T.B., Leprosy and H.I.V.+/AIDS).
  • Isolation rooms for accommodating mentally ill patients.

Source by Amit Kumar

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