The Tihar jail has roughly 12,000 inmates, double its sanctioned capacity. The very crime the man at the centre of the Delhi gang rape, Ram Singh, committed was indicative of his propensity to violence and a lack of mental balance. Criminals in such situations do tend to be suicidal. When unmanageable numbers of people are forcibly enclosed together, prisoner-on-prisoner violence is all too common, with staff failing to keep watch or even directly “disciplining” prisoners. Many view it as fitting informal punishment for despised criminals. Psychologists who have studied jail violence say that sex offenders often find themselves positioned on the lowest rungs of a hierarchy of inmates, which exposes them to particularly bad treatment from fellow prisoners. Criminal psychologists, however, point out that prison violence is a complex phenomenon, in principle influenced by several other factors such as overcrowding and opportunities for violence.

J.S. Acharya,

Hyderabad

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