Why Your Husband should not be in Jail: Family Rights of Prisoners

This article is written by Rashmi Pandey. Rashmi is a third-year student and has been the Chief Student Editor of AIL Reporter, Member of Student Research Society, presently pursuing BA LLB at Army Institute of Law, Mohali.


 “Family is affected and involved in the prison sentence. It affects everybody close.”

-Anonymous Prisoner[1]

India is a wonderful place. Indeed we keep blaming the system for endless reasons, here’s one more to add. Let’s imagine a family happily living or otherwise, and circumstances change so that the prime bread winner or probably the husband ends up in jail. Let’s have an empathetic journey of the legal rights and tangents which the family or the wife of such prisoner’s face. As per Sec. 56(1) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984, a person who has been arrested has the right to inform someone who is likely to take interest in his welfare.

Articles 21 and 22(1) of the Indian Constitution enshrine more such rights wherein it is the duty of the Magistrate to ensure that the arresting policing officer has complied with these rights.[2]  But again since we live in India “and there are perks which will definitely follow” it is only rarely that all these rights which have been guaranteed are properly implemented. A report by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights discusses the actual implementation of rights of inmates in Tihar jail at New Delhi, to receive visitors, among other prison conditions.[3]

The inmates of Tihar Central Jail, Delhi according to the Prison Manual, are allowed to have two interviews (mulaqat) per week in a designated area called the mulaqat jangla, with three visitors permitted in an interview. However, the process of arranging a mulaqat is extremely tedious and cumbersome. Advanced bookings for the same have to be made either by telephone (011-28520202). Moreover, even though the Manual provides for three visitors, in reality, only 1 is allowed for under-trials and 3 for convicts since March 1, 2011, which is often a problem for out-station families.

Furthermore, since March 2011, several restrictions have been imposed on visitation rights. Only the 8-10 names submitted by the prisoner can be a mulaqatee. Visitors have to undergo a strict and long entry-procedure with multiple checkpoints. The jail administration is extremely arbitrary and unresponsive in nature. Inmates are often mistreated and the prison conditions are degrading for any human being.[4]

The State has employed imprisonment of offenders not just as a method of deterrence but also as a tool for retribution. These retributive restrictions are in fact principles of justice as per which what a criminal deserves on account of his personal character and individual conduct poses the limitation on the morality of states for his treatment.

And when you are a wife of one such state villain; of course you have to adjust to the physical absence of your husband and take all responsibilities, there’s a lot more which life will show you. Some wives feel that they themselves have been imprisoned and “put their lives on hold” while waiting for the return of their husbands.[5] Not only are they subjected to stigmatisation,[6] but can also suffer from social isolation, deterioration of other relationships, loss of income and extra burdens of childcare.[7]

Imprisonment of a partner can also cause, among other problems, relationship issues leading to divorce, shifting of homes and medical and health problems due to the constant pressure in the minds of families.

Families and partners are not a homogenous group with respect to issues faced due to imprisonment of family member/spouse. While the extent of effects of imprisonment on the members of a family depends on various factors such as the closeness of the relationship, familial social and support system etc.,[8] the partners almost always experience far greatstigmatisationion from the society and often feel a “transfer of punishment”.[9]

It’s already difficult for a poor, middle class or a lower middle class women to adjust with the economy, society, and ambitions. Problem of husband being imprisoned shatters them within. The legal system which we have created also at the execution stage looks down upon them and hardly realizes their pain.


[1] Alison Liebling & Shadd Maruna, The Effects of Imprisonment, 442 (2005).

[2] AIR 1981 SC 746.

[3] Beyond the Prison Gates: A Report on Living Conditions in Tihar Jail, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, New Delhi (September 2011).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Timothy J. Flanagan, Long-Term Imprisonment, Policy, Science and Correctional Practice, 1995.

[6] Ibid at 150.

[7] Supra Note 1at 444.

[8] Supra Note 1 at 445.

[9]B.N. Chattoraj, A Study on Children of Women Prisoners in Indian Jails, National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences, (2000).


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