A hundred years ago Sept. 25, 1919. Archives

From the Archives (September 25, 1919): Medical Administration in Jails.

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Now that it is definitely known that the Jail Committee will be visiting Madras about the middle of next November, it is but proper that some of the defects of the administration should be brought to the notice of the Committee and the public. I shall in this article touch only on one side of this vast question, viz., the Medical Administration.

It is undeniable that in jails the medical administration is indissolubly connected with the rest of the jail administration. The health of the prisoners is considered to be a matter of supreme importance and therefore the classification of their health and labour, the distribution of labour, hours of work, proper preparation and distribution of diet, keeping all new prisoners in quarantine, provision of proper clothing and bedding to them, proper accommodation in the association wards, close observation of convicts who are alleged to be weak-minded, and proper treatment of sick prisoners, besides the supervision of the hygienic condition of the prisoners and the sanitary arrangements of the jail are some of the important works assigned to the medical staff. These things can satisfactorily be carried out only if the executive head of a jail is a medical man. In the jails where the Superintendent and the Medical Officer are different persons, the latter may suggest many improvements, the necessity of which the lay Superintendent may not realise and he may try to shelve them for the sake of economy or on some other false pretext. Not-a-days the Superintendents of the jails view with one another to earn the name of making the largest profit in their jails. The Medical Superintendent will not be able to throw the responsibility on anybody else. The Medical Superintendent of Central Jails should certainly be full-time officers. They should not be given any collateral work, which may take away their time and energy in another direction. It is a sad mistake both in the interest of the jails and the districts concerned to appoint a medical man as the D.M. & S.O. and at the same time Superintendent of a jail. However clever a medical man may be, his divided attention in the jail and his full district is sure to tell on the efficiency and proper management of both the departments. The promotion of jailers to the post of Superintendents though justifiable in my own way, is certainly not desirable in the interests of the jails. The jailer is an executive officer, running in the same groove of executive work all his time, innocent of medical administration, generally hardened by exacting undue work from the convicts, and with a certain amount of prejudice towards the medical staff, as will be explained subsequently. Such an officer is hardly fit to hold the reins of a jail.

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