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Horrors of Jail Life

R. Sreekumar

By Mary Tyler
B.I. Publications, Delhi, 1978, pp. 191, Rs. 30.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 2 September/October 1978

Man's cruelty to man is unbelievable. But believe one has to, when details come out one after another, of what people undergo in our prisons, where they are supposed to be reformed. After spend­ing ages in prison, they come out· hardened, their hearts darkened more than ever with evil. Mary Tyler's account of her years in Hazaribagh jail reflects largely the back­ground and nature of her co-prisoners’ crimes and the inhuman atmosphere in Indian jails. The police had charged the author, together with fifty-one others, including her husband, Amalendu. All were still in jail, awaiting trial, when she was released five years later. After three years in jail, when at last she was taken to the court, the magistrate just glanced up, motioned to the police and she was back in jail in ten minutes' time. Trials are mirages for prisoners. They may reach the courts, but seldom the trial. The suffocating atmosphere of the guilty and the non-guilty in our prisons is best described by the author when she says: ‘Even police brought a breath of the outside world into the stifling isolation of my cell.’ The condition of women in the prison, according to Tyler, is bad. She says: ‘There were never less than thirty pri­soners, and when I finally left Jamshedpur two years later, there were forty-four women and twelve children sharing the fifteen feet square cage. At night they were packed in rows, unable to turn one way or the other without great difficulty, young and old, sick and healthy, mad and sane, all crammed together. The single latrine had to be reached by step­ping over the bodies of those who had the misfortune to be sleeping in front of it. The drain leading from it ran over­-ground across the yard at the back, and the stench rose through the open bars on three sides.’ The account that Mary Tyler gives of Saibunissa, a Muslim woman of about forty-five, is a touching example of how generations of families wither away in jails. Saibunissa, her husband, her three young sons and a nephew, had all been jailed for twenty years after a dispute over land inheritance that had led to a fight in which her brother-in-law had died. When they were sentenced her youngest son was about thirteen and had already spent five years in jail. Her three youngest daughters were outside. ‘...

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