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Suicide in Jail

An under-trial died in Jail today morning. Apparently he hung himself in his jail cell.

He was innocent until proven guilty and no punishment could or should have been meted out to him until a court of law had pronounced it. He was under the care of the Jail authorities and unbiased, non judgmental effort should have been made to help him while confined to Jail. I doubt if that was actually the case.

The media highlight that his case had taken and the emotions which exploded after the crime came to light, led to the accused deemed to be a ‘monster’. Jail inmates had been reported to be harsh and abusive towards the alleged perpetrators. Whether jail staff felt and behaved the same way is unknown but not unlikely. Were staff provided with any training to not let their emotions come in the way of duty? Is there any such training available for Tihar Jail staff?

Proper procedure would have demanded a medical examination of the under-trial and provide him access to healthcare at all times. Was that done?  A person involved in such a high profile case, subjected to media and social ostracism, harassed in jail, and confined to a cell, a person who reportedly expressed guilt soon after being arrested; should have been assessed by the Prison Psychiatrist. Was that done? Were his thoughts of guilt and self blame taken seriously by anyone? I doubt if he was on a suicide watch-do we have that in Tihar-which means that a prison inmate is checked upon every so often AND is placed in such a situation that any attempt at committing suicide fails. No high windows, no curtain rods (except if they are collapsible), and no strong bed sheets. It is high time prison authorities got up and looked at the above procedures with great belief and conviction.

Most of all, the mental health services at prisons/jails across the country must be strengthened, NOW. Other countries are doing it after having realized the folly they are doing, that jails are full of people needing mental heath care and that crime cannot be reduced by keeping them inside jails. Crime can be reduced by demonstrating respect and offering non judgmental help to all, even those who have allegedly committed a crime. Help to regain mental health, an important aspect of complete health that we often forget!

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