Nagaraju Koppula
Express News Service

HYDERABAD: As many as 642 inmates of seven central prisons in the state died in the past six years. The reason : AP Prisons Department’s medical wing is inadequately equipped with staff and medicines

Of the 642 deaths, 20 were suicides, two were killed by opponents and 620 others died of various health problems including mental illness in the hospitals in the past six years

On an average, mortality rate of inmates in the state prisons is 120 per annum, according to the records of the AP Prisons Department (APPD).Timely medical facilities should be provided to the prisoners. A number of prisoners die due to natural causes for want of timely medical attention.Another problem is the mental trauma and related illnesses that hound prison inmates. Life at central prisons is breaking the psychological health of many prisoners, going by the number of inmates regularly being brought for treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Erragadda here. Every week, 20 to 25 inmates from Cherlapally and Chenchalguda prisons were brought to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and about 35 to 40 inmates to Gandhi and Osmania general hospitals in the state capital. Some of them have conditions so advanced that they have to be hospitalised for three to five weeks, records at the IMH reveal.But even with a long history of mental illness afflicting inmates, none of the prisons in the state have filled the post of a psychiatrist

There are seven central prisons in the state – Cherlapally, Chanchalguda, Warangal, Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Kadapa and Kurnool and two prisons for women at Chanchalguda and Rajahmundry. The total strength of these prisons is about 7,000.The reasons for physical and mental illnesses among prisoners are many, according to a doctor at Cherlapally jail.

An inmate gets cut off from his social life outside and the loss of regular interaction with family and friends is likely to push him or her into a deep depression. “One who is physically weak and mentally vulnerable is also likely to develop psychological problems in the prison as they face trouble from fellow inmates who have been staying there for long, the doctor says.The guilt over the offence committed and the inability to adapt to the new life within the prison is an additional factor. Also, genetic proneness to illnesses, which is not a serious threat outside, can take the form of a bigger problem under incarceration

B Raja Mahesh, deputy superintendent of Cherlapally central prison said, “In every prison, there is a special cell for the mentally ill inmates.

There are a minimum of 15 such inmates in every prison. As prisons do not have psychiatrists, the inmates are taken to the IMH, Gandhi or Osmania hospitals for treatment,’’ he said. It is also said that half of the inmates, who have served a life imprisonment, will have psychological problems after their release.