The Ministry of Home Affairs prepared the ‘Model Prisons Act 2023’ that will replace a British-era law
- There are “several lacunae” in the old pre-Independence Act, the Prisons Act of 1894, and there was a “conspicuous omission” of the disciplinary focus in the existing Act. This leads to several problems in jail. Some of the issues are listed below:
- Lack of Focus on Reform and Rehabilitation: The Prisons Act of 1894 focuses on custody and maintaining order in prisons, but it lacks provisions for reform and rehabilitation.
- Overcrowding of Prisons: The occupancy rate in Indian prisons is 118.5% of their capacity, leading to poor living conditions and the spread of infectious diseases.
- Health and Hygiene: Many prisons lack proper medical facilities, resulting in neglect and untreated health issues among prisoners. Hygiene conditions are also substandard.
- Delay in Trials: Numerous cases remain pending for extended periods, disrupting the prison administration system. The Supreme Court has recognised the right to a speedy trial for prisoners.
- Custodial Torture: Despite prohibiting third-degree torture by the police, custodial violence remains prevalent in prisons. Cases of custodial deaths have been reported across different states.
- Challenges for Women and Children: Women prisoners face physical and mental problems, including inadequate sanitation facilities and lack of care during pregnancy. Children are often placed in correctional homes but experience abuse and psychological trauma.
- Modernisation of Prisons Scheme: The scheme for modernising prisons was launched in 2002-03 to improve the condition of prisoners and prisoners and prison personnel.
- Modernisation of Prisons Project (2021-26): The government has decided to provide financial assistance to States and UTs, through the Project for using modern-day security equipment in Prisons for:
- Enhancing the security of jails.
- To facilitate the task of reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners through correctional administration programmes.
- E-Prisons Project: The E-Prisons project aims to introduce efficiency in prison management through digitisation.
- Model Prison Manual 2016: The manual provides detailed information about the legal services (including free services) available to prison inmates.
- National Legal Services Authority (NALSA): It was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987. It came into force on 9th November 1995 to establish a uniform nationwide network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has prepared the ‘Model Prisons Act 2023’ which will replace a British-era law (the Prisons Act of 1894) to overhaul the prison administration that will focus on reforming and rehabilitating inmates.
- Reformation and Rehabilitation Focus: The new act aims to overhaul prison administration by focusing on reforming and rehabilitating inmates, moving away from the old punitive approach.
- Punishment for Prohibited Items: Provisions for punishment for prisoners and jail staff for using prohibited items, such as mobile phones, within prisons.
- High-Security Jails and Open Prisons: Establishment and management of high-security jails and open and semi-open prisons to cater to different categories of prisoners.
- Protection from Hardened Criminals: Provisions to protect society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders.
- Legal Aid, Parole, and Furlough: Provision of legal aid to prisoners and introduction of parole, furlough, and premature release as incentives for good conduct.
- Security Assessment and Segregation: Implementation of security assessments and segregation of prisoners, along with individual sentence planning.
- Grievance Redressal and Prison Development Board: Introduction of a grievance redressal mechanism and establishing a prison development board.
- Attitudinal Change and Separate Accommodation: Emphasis on attitudinal change towards prisoners and provision of separate accommodation for women prisoners, transgender individuals, etc.
- Use of Technology in Prison Administration: Incorporation of technology for transparent prison administration, including provisions for videoconferencing with courts and scientific and technological interventions in prisons.
- In India, prisons and the ‘persons detained therein’ are State subjects. The Model Prisons Act of 2023 may serve as a guiding document for states for adoption in their jurisdiction.
- The Prisoners Act of 1900 and the Transfer of Prisoners Act of 1950 are also decades-old and relevant provisions of these Acts have been assimilated in the Model Prisons Act 2023, expecting to bring much-needed reforms to the Indian prison system and align it with international standards.
Content contributed by- News Canvass.