Internship Experience @ District Jail, Meerut: 60% of those in jail are there because they are poor; not criminals

Name, College, Year of Study, Email ID

Harleen Sethi, Symbiosis Law School Pune, 4th year, [email protected]

Name of Organisation, Location, Team Strength

District Jail, Meerut

Application Process

It is extremely difficult to get an internship opportunity at District jails, especially in U.P. due to all the security issues.

I was lucky enough since my dad is posted as a senior Army officer in Meerut and he could work out this internship for me.

Duration of internship and timings

1st December 2013- 28th December 2013

The timings were flexible, ranging from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m.

First impression, first day formalities, infrastructure

The environment at the District Jail in Meerut was extremely quiet and gloomy especially on the non-visiting days.

On visiting days, it was actually very chirpy and loud since the inmates had families coming over to see them.

As I entered the District jail and handed over my phone to the guard, I felt nervous as it was the first time I was entering a jail, where the environment was so tense and I had all eyes on me.

The Meerut District jail has had a history of violence between the inmates and the authorities, hence I was accompanied by an official at all times for safety reasons. I was the only girl and at first I thought this was going to be hard, but I got around it and I felt comfortable interacting with everybody.

I believe its upto you to turn your internship experience into something valuable, so it is advisable to take everything in your stride and make the best of it and that is exactly what I did.

Main tasks

My main task was to interact with the distinct categories of inmates (men and women), both under trial and convicted (habitual and casual offenders).

This internship was an eye opener as I dealt with the inmates on a first hand basis.

I was fortunate enough to have an experience as real as this, as it made me aware about a lot of practical issues and intricacies involved in the judicial procedure which bookish knowledge could not have given me.

I was exposed to the practical applicability of various sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Apart from the Bare Acts, I gained knowledge about the procedures involved in the Jail hierarchy and the rules of the Uttar Pradesh Jail Manual.

As exciting as it sounds, it is not easy to talk to the inmates and get information regarding their offences and how they got there and their families. You need to make them comfortable and assure them that you are there just to talk to them and that this will not affect their case in anyway.

As I mentioned earlier, this internship was an eye opener. I came across first hand experiences of the inmates being beaten up by the police authorities and not even bothering to find out any concrete evidence.

Most of them want to dispose of the case as soon as possible without wanting to get to the bottom of the case and actually locking up the real criminals behind the offence.

There was this one particular case wherein two young boys were arrested, beaten up and put behind bars for murder of a college girl based on a mere assumption that she was their college friend.

They were threatened by the police authorities to confess and admit in front of the victim’s parents that they committed the murder. These boys were picked up from their offices and kept in inhumane conditions for 2-3 days before bringing them to the concerned authorities.

There was yet another case where a well-known U.P. criminal has come to the jail 19 times and is more than confident that his ‘contacts’ will get him out in no time and this practice was very ‘usual’ for him.

It is a vicious circle. 60% of the inmates are innocent as their only fault is that they are poor and they don’t have enough money to pay their way out of it.

The actual offenders, on the other hand, are roaming about freely as they have paid their way through the trial and the procedure. These poor people who are trapped into being convicted and put behind bars have so much anger in them that when they come out of the jail, their aim is to harm the society and trust me, they say that to your face.

They openly comment that the society has been unfair to them and there is no point in them being good citizens.

Please note, I am only emphasizing on the 60% of the inmate population. The remaining 40% deserve to be locked up behind bars for good.

Work environment and people

The authorities were extremely cooperative as they showed me around and provided me with all the important documents and registers I needed to study. Most of the inmates, both men and women were also interacting with me and giving me the information I required without hesitating.

It is extremely important to keep your cool while interning at such places as you get hit with the most shocking situations and stories. It is also advisable to go prepared as when you talk to the inmates they ask you various questions regarding the law and its applicability and you should be able to answer them correctly.

Best things

The best part about this internship was that I was exposed to a whole new world altogether. All of us hear and read about how jails are and we have an image in our minds regarding the same, but trust me, it is a different world altogether. It is as normal and at the same time, as strange, as we imagine it to be.

For those looking to get into judiciary, it is a must to have such an experience as it gives you a taste of what reality is and to what extent the law is actually adhered to in practice.

Bad things

The drawbacks were that you had to be safe at all times and be alert, which is a little hard when you are engrossed in interactions. You cannot pally up to the inmates as that will get you into trouble and you have to be extremely careful as to what you say and your conduct as that may get you into trouble.

Stipend

None

Biggest Lessons

The biggest lesson I came across what to never ever make assumptions. I have studied the IPC and the CrPC in Law school and all of us have a vague idea about how this works in theory, but in practicality it is a whole new dice altogether.

You cannot imagine the difference unless you experience it first hand. So before going into any internship experience, be sure to drop all assumptions out of your mind and go with an open mind and attitude.

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