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Posted at: May 23, 2019, 7:01 AM; last updated: May 23, 2019, 7:01 AM (IST)

TB, HIV biggest killers in packed state jails: Study

Account for 22 per cent of total deaths in two years

Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 22

Tuberculosis, HIV and Hepatitis-C are the biggest killer in jails in the state. The fact came to the fore in a recent study.

As per a study on custodial deaths conducted by Amritsar Medical College’s Department of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, TB along with HIV and Hepatitis-C was the cause of death in 22 per cent cases, which were recorded as natural deaths.

The study ‘A Two-Year Prospective Study of Custodial Deaths from Punjab Region of India’ published in Medico Legal Update studied the cause of death of 135 inmates (119 male and 16 female), who died in Punjab jails between October 2014 and September 2016 and were brought to the hospital for postmortem. Of these, 100 (74.07%) died in jail custody, 33 (24.45%) died in mental hospital custody and in two cases (1.48%) death occurred in police custody.

Among 92 cases (out of 135), final cause of death was declared natural (95.65 per cent), while in 4.35%, it was unnatural. Of total 102 cases of judicial/police custody deaths, 53 cases (51.96%) were suffering either from TB, HIV, HCV or multiple infections.

The study found that pulmonary tuberculosis was the most common natural cause among prison custodial deaths (22.8%). In mental hospital custody, coronary artery disease (12.8%) was the leading cause of natural death.

Among natural deaths most were due to pulmonary system involvement, pulmonary tuberculosis being the leading cause. “The main reason behind this was overcrowding, closed living conditions, insufficient ventilation and poor nutrition in Indian jails as compared to western countries,” said Dr DR Mittal, who did this work while studying at Amritsar Medical College and now works as demonstrator at Maharaja Agrasen Medical College, Agroha (Haryana).

The availability of quality healthcare facilities to inmates has also emerged as a big issue in the jails. A total of 104 (77.04%) persons received medical care before their death, while 31 (22.96%) died at their place of confinement and had not received medical care before their death.

Among those dying in jail custody, 50% were convicted prisoners, 47% were undertrials and 3% were internee. When it comes to age group of the victims, the proportion of overall custodial deaths was highest in 26-35 years (26.7%) age group followed by 36-45 years (21.50%) and 46-55 years (16.30%) age groups.

The study has expressed concern over access to various drugs and poisons to inmates inside jail and said “this could not be possible without connivance of jail officials.”

“Those involved in such practices should be warned and strict action needs to be taken. De-addiction and rehabilitation services to addict prisoners and timely medical care to sick ones should be provisioned as a matter of right,” said Dr Mittal.

What needs to be done

  • There should be regular health check-ups and an effective programme to screen and treat inmates.

  • Better maintenance of prisons, trained, sensitive and more dedicated staff and de-crowding of prisons are a few of important suggestions to be followed.

  • Action should be taken against officials conniving with inmates for smuggling of drugs inside the jail.

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