Can a Prison be Green?

Can a Prison be Green?

Indian jail aims to be 'world's first green prison'
Monday, January 18, 2010 - 2:00pm


Indian jail aims to be 'world's first green prison'

Interesting piece on Yahoo last month. The Tihar Central Jail in New Delhi, the largest penal institution in South Asia, wants to become the world’s first “green prison”. The plan is to power the prison with renewable energy, recycle waste and conserve water and power.

This prison is a small city unto itself, with 10 prison blocks over 395 acres. Despite the large footprint, it is massively overcrowded, with nearly 11,500 inmates filling its functional but sanitary cells. The prison is 100% over its capacity, with 9 of 11 inmates simply awaiting trial.

But the prison director-general, B.K. Gupta, wants to improve living conditions for the inmates, and transform the facility into what he calls “the world's first green prison" in the next three years.

The project will set up sewage treatment plants to recycle water for sanitation and horticulture, build biogas plants on site to provide energy, collect rainwater and cut electricity use. The gas plants will recycle household waste into biogas, along with wood scraps and prunings from the site, providing power and cutting both the electric bill and the greenhouse gas emissions of the facility. A solar hot water system will provide the 30,000 liters of hot water the inmates use every day.

And during the winter months, when prisoners are outside doing morning and afternoon meditation and yoga sessions, power will be cut to the cells for more savings. Lightbulbs in the cells and administrative offices will be replaced with low-energy alternatives, to reduce electricity consumption by 50-70%.

The prison employs a rainwater harvesting system as well, collecting rainwater from the rooftop and unpaved areas in the prison. This is particularly useful during monsoon season as it not only captured rainwater for later use, and helps prevent flooding in the jail after heavy rainfall.

Summer temperatures can soar to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, so fans will be kept on so that the prisoners "don't suffocate, like in other jails in Asia," Gupta state. Nice touch. This begs the question: Is greening a prison a band aid to a much bigger problem? It would seem that like energy conservation, the best way to reduce the prison’s ecological footprint is to reduce the size of the prison and its population. Take the social steps to eliminate the criminalization of the population. Most crimes are economic- stealing, bribery, theft, burglary, robbery, embezzlement, fraud, pick pocketing, prostitution, etc. Investment outside the prison in industries to create jobs might reduce the need for a large and crowded prison in the first place. It seems to me the real conservation effort could be avoiding human resources from becoming waste, and prisons becoming landfills for unwanted human beings.

A female doctor in the women’s section of the prison was happy to hear of the coming changes - but points out that some other basic human needs must be met.

"We don't have specialists here. And we also need a lot of new equipment, not only for energy," she added, casting a glance at the iron-framed beds where inmates lay asleep, wrapped up in their covers. is dedicated to our users. We focus our attention on changing the world through recycling, waste-to-energy and conservation. We reward our users for their sustainable behaviors on our website, through our Greenopolis Tracking Stations and with curbside recycling programs.