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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 24 January, 2023

  • 7 Min Read

Prison Reforms

Prison Reforms

During the annual police meeting in New Delhi, Prime Minister proposed prison reforms.

What were the Prime Minister's Speech's Main Highlights?

  • He made a point of highlighting the value of the National Data Governance Framework for facilitating smooth data interchange between agencies.
  • Additionally, developing the police forces' sensitivity and giving them training in cutting-edge technology
  • He discussed using technological tools like biometrics and other similar ones as well as the requirement to further improve established policing practises like foot patrols.
  • Additionally, he emphasised the need for improved collaboration between the State Police and Central Agencies in order to take advantage of their combined skills and share best practises at the State and district levels, replicating the DGsP/IGsP Conference model for team discussions of new challenges and developing best practises.
  • Strengthening of border and coastal security by regular official visits to these areas

About Imprisonment:

  • The process of criminal justice ends with imprisonment. It simply refers to restricting someone's freedom as retribution for a crime they may have committed.

What is the state of Indian prison administration?

  • The management of prisons is a crucial facet of the criminal justice system. In the past century, the way society views convicts has undergone a fundamental shift.
  • With a shift in the way society views jail and convicts, the previous penal system, which involved forcibly confining inmates and depriving them of their freedoms as a form of punishment, has been altered.
  • It is now regarded as a correctional or improvement centre, which shows that reforming criminals is given more priority than punishing them.
  • The government organisations that uphold the law, decide on criminal cases, and deter illegal behaviour make up the Indian Criminal Justice System.

Prison problems in India:

  • According to 2021 statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 5,54,034 inmates nationwide, compared to a 4,25,609 capacity. 77% of the 5.54 lakh prisoners in India are awaiting trial, which contributes to the congestion.
  • 11,490 prisoners had served more than five years in prison without being found guilty.
  • According to the NCRB's jail statistics for 2021, there were 130% of available beds occupied, an increase of 12% from the year before.
  • The occupancy rate reached 185% in the states of Uttarakhand and UP.
  • Criminal laws that are out of date and irrational: In 2021, there were over 10% of prisoners who were awaiting trial for rape and dowry deaths. Both offences are terrible crimes that demand harsh penalties. Laws against sexual assault, however, do not distinguish between rape and forged marriage proposals.
  • Anti-dowry laws are written such that police can make several arrests for a single offence.
  • For offences involving alcohol and drugs, almost 25% of undertrials in 2021 were jailed under special and municipal regulations. Irrational prohibition policies frequently result in the long-term incarceration of less fortunate populations.
  • Ineffective legal aid: Lawyers in India are underpaid and frequently overworked. Lack of assistance causes the most suffering for the most vulnerable groups in society.
  • Indian prisons are in appalling condition: There is not enough room, there is inadequate ventilation, there is bad sanitation, and there is poor hygiene.
  • Lack of staff: There is an approximate 1:7 staff-to-inmate ratio in prisons, which encourages widespread violence and other criminal activity there.
  • Because it was established by the British to subjugate political inmates, India's prison system is prone to abuse. Prisoners frequently experience sexual abuse, in addition to being subjected to inhumane physical and psychological torture.
  • Custodial deaths: In 2015, there were 1,584 deaths in custody, mostly as a result of violence in the prisons.
  • Discrimination against inmates who are socioeconomically disadvantaged: According to Human Rights Watch, there is a "strict" class system in Indian prisons, which is harming the disadvantaged classes.
  • Inadequate security measures: Inmates frequently engage in violence against one other, which results in harm and, in some cases, death.
  • Lack of mental healthcare: India frequently ignores the mental suffering that occurs in jails as a result of the physical and psychological abuse that occurs there. Prisoner medical care is lacking.

International Standards For Prison Law:

  • All those who have been deprived of their freedom must be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent worth of every person.
  • Unless there are special circumstances, accused persons must be kept apart from those who have been found guilty and must receive care unique to those who have not yet been found guilty;
  • Juvenile suspects must be kept apart from adults and brought to court as soon as practicable.
  • The primary goals of treating convicts in the penal system are their reformation and social rehabilitation. Juvenile criminals must be kept apart from adults and treated according to their age and legal standing.

The Supreme Court maintained three guidelines for detention and imprisonment:

  • A person in prison does not become a non-person.
  • Within the confines of incarceration, every human right belongs to a prisoner.
  • There is no justification for adding to the anguish that is already present during the detention process.

Indian legislation pertaining to prisons:

  • The Prisons Act of 1894 is more concerned with maintaining order within than it is with reforming and rehabilitating inmates.
  • The Transfer of Prisoners Act of 1950 allows for the transfer of inmates from one State to another.
  • Legal service Authority Act, 1987: The Act was passed to ensure that opportunities to obtain justice are not denied to any citizen because of their economic circumstances or other disabilities. It also aims to organise Lok Adalats to ensure that the functioning of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
  • The Government of India passed the Repatriation of Prisoners Act in 2003 with the goal of assisting foreign inmates who are being held in Indian jails or vice versa in getting their remaining sentences served close to their family in order to aid them in their journey of social rehabilitation.

Recommendation:

In its 268th report, the Law Commission of India made the following recommendations regarding prison reforms:

  • The Commission suggested that persons arrested for crimes carrying sentences of up to seven years in prison be freed after serving one-third of that time and those accused of crimes carrying lengthier sentences be released after serving half of that time.
  • Additionally, it was advised that the magistrates should not issue mechanical remand orders and that the police should avoid making unnecessary arrests.

Recommendations of the Justice Amitava Roy Committee:

  • Amitava Roy, a former judge of the Supreme Court, will serve as the chairman of the three-person committee that the Supreme Court established in 2018 to study jail reforms nationwide and give suggestions on a variety of issues, including prison overpopulation.
  • Establishing specialised fast-track courts to handle just minor offences that have been pending for more than five years is necessary.
  • Additionally, those who have been charged with minor crimes and have been granted bail but are unable to secure surety should be freed on a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond.
  • Establishing a National Mission for legal reforms and justice delivery.

Mulla Committee suggested:

  • Formed in 1983, it recommended a National Prison Commission to be established to oversee the renovation of the jails in India.
  • Youthful offenders and experienced criminals are separated in prison.
  • Establishing a thorough and protective legal framework to ensure the safety and welfare of children.
  • A psychiatric hospital should be used to house mentally sick prisoners.
  • Making proper provisions for food, cleanliness, ventilation, etc. to improve the conditions within the prison.
  • Undertrials and convicted inmates ought to be kept apart.

1987 Krishna Iyer Committee recommended:

  • The committee required an assessment of the circumstances facing women prisoners nationwide.
  • It is advised that more women be hired as police officers to deal with female and juvenile offenders.

Indian government initiatives for prison reform:

  • Prison modernization programme: launched in 2002–2003 with the goal of enhancing the situation of jails, prisons, and inmates.
  • The goal of the e-Prisons Project is to increase efficiency in jail administration through digitization.
  • Open Prisons: In 1980, the All-India Committee on Jail Reform suggested that open prisons be established in all of the states and UTs.
  • Introduced in 2016 to replace the current prison manual, the model prison manual The guidebook addresses topics such as human rights, prisoner reintegration into society, female inmates' rights, legislation governing prison inspection, and the right to education even for those on death row.

Way Forward

  • Making Prisons and Correctional Facilities Better: Only when the issues of unrealistically low budgetary allocation, high workloads, and the police's disregard for procedural safeguards are resolved will the ideal policy prescription of turning prisons into places of rehabilitation and "correctional institutions" be realised.
  • One of the finest methods to address the unjustifiable occurrence of overcrowding is swift trial.
  • Currently, there isn't at least one lawyer for every 30 convicts, which is not enough.
  • Establishing specialised fast-track courts to handle just minor offences that have been pending for more than five years is necessary

Source: The Hindu

  • 24 July, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Prison Reforms

Prison Reforms

  • Articles 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22 deal with the rights of prisoners.
  • Art 39 (a) Fair justice also deals with Prisons.
  • Prisons is a State subject.
  • Administration and management of prisons is the responsibility of respective State Governments. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs provides regular guidance and advice to States and UTs on various issues concerning prisons and prison inmates.

Statistics on Prisons

  • Bench of Justices U.U.Lalit and K.M. Joseph, in a judgment, highlighted the “alarming” statistics of prisons. Justice Joseph said the occupancy rate in prisons had climbed to 118.5% in 2019.
  • The court referred to the National Crime Records Bureau’s figures of 2019 to show that 18,86,092 inmates were admitted in jails. The number of under trial prisoners in 2019 was 3,30,487,which, in fact, constituted 69.05% of the total number of prisoners.
  • Secondly, a very large sum (Rs. 6818.1 crore)was the budget for prisons.
  • The “tremendous” overcrowding of prisons and the huge budget were both “relevant in the context of the possibilities that house arrest offers”, the court noted. It concluded that “as regards post-conviction cases, we would leave it open to the legislature to ponder over its employment. We have indicated the problems of overcrowding of prisons and the cost to the State in maintaining prisons”.

Justice Amitav Roy Panel of SC recommends several Prison reforms

  • Overcrowding is the common bane in understaffed prisons. Both the prisoner and his guard suffer human rights violations equally.
  • Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family to see him through his first weeks in jail.
  • The physical production is less, because of the unavailability of police guards for escort and transportation, trial through video call is a solution.
  • There should be at least 1 lawyer for every 30 prisoners.
  • Modern cooking facilities, canteens to buy essential items etc. are other recommendations.

SC recommendations on Prison reforms

  • The court asked Undertrial Review Committees in all districts to meet every quarter.
  • Treat prisoners with dignity. The Supreme Court has been saying this since (the case of) Sunil Batra (1980).
  • In 2014, a Supreme Court bench ordered strict implementation of the provision of the Criminal Procedure Code which prescribes release of undertrials who have served half their sentence.
  • For the release of undertrials, the court asked Undertrial Review Committees in all districts to meet every quarter.
  • The court went on to state that no undertrial should languish in jail for want of bail money. According to the order, 3,470 prisoners had not been released because they failed to furnish bail bonds.
  • In a step to extend reforms to juvenile homes, the court advised that a document similar to the Model Prison Manual be prepared for juvenile observation homes and safety homes.
  • It called for an annual review of the implementation of the Model Prison Manual and said that it should not be reduced to just another document.
  • The Model Prison Manual is a document prepared by the home ministry dealing with various incidental issues including custodial management, medical care, education of prisoners, vocational training and skill development programmes, legal aid, welfare of prisoners, after-care and rehabilitation, and prison computerization.
  • The court, in its directions, also touched upon the need to provide quality legal aid to prisoners by empanelling “competent lawyers". The court said that it should be ensured that “legal aid for the poor does not become poor legal aid".
  • It also said that police personnel in charge of prisons should ensure effective utilisation of funds allocated to them for improving living conditions of prisoners.
  • Pushing for computerization, the court directed that a management information system be set in place in all central and district jails so that there is better handling of prisons and prisoners.

Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D)

  • Govt established BPR&D under the Ministry of Home Affairs in the 1970s.
  • It replaced the Police Research and Advisory Council with the primary objective of the modernization of the police force.
  • The primary objective is the modernization of the police force.
  • In 1995, it was entrusted with the issues relating to Correctional Administration Work (welfare of convicts/ undertrials, rehabilitation after the release of prisoners). Hence it has to ensure the implementation of prison reforms as well.
  • Govt created National Police Mission under the administrative control of BPR&D to transform police forces in the country.

‘Gatekeeper Model’ mooted by NIMHANS to prevent suicides in prisons

  • In a bid to prevent suicides triggered by mental health issues in prisons across the country, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, has recommended the “Gatekeeper Model” where selected inmates, trained to identify prisoners at risk of suicide, would refer them to treatment or supportive services.
  • Acting on the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs, NIMHANS, an Institute of National Importance, issued a set of guidelines on the management of mental health issues of the prisoners and prison staff. Referring to the Bangalore Prison Mental Health Study, the advisory pointed to the prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorder in about 80% of the prison population.
  • NIMHANS experts said prisoners with mental disorders had to be regularly assessed for severity of the suicidal risk and also put on regular and supervised medication. To address the prisoner’s mental health needs, the correctional facility should have links to community-based initiatives like the District Mental Health Programme.

“Buddy system”

  • The advisory said the concept of a ‘Buddy System’ — social support through trained prisoners called “buddies” or “listeners” — was found to have a good impact on the well-being of suicidal prisoners. Periodic telephone conversations with friends and family would also foster support, it said.
  • These initiatives were part of several other recommendations made by NIMHANS to effectively manage mental health issues among prisoners and staff.
  • Communicating the guidelines to all States, the MHA said the COVID-19 virus had posed unique challenges to the world and prisons and correctional facilities were also affected by the pandemic.
  • Though appropriate measures were taken by the authorities to check the spread of the virus in prisons, there was a need to continue monitoring the situation rigorously without letting the guard down and providing care to inmates and prison staff.
  • Emphasising on the mental health of prisoners, the Ministry said incarcerated people could face many vulnerabilities during the pandemic, which might impact their mental wellbeing. The prison staff was also working under tremendous pressure and faced challenges in performing their duty while safeguarding themselves from contracting the infection.
  • In Tamil Nadu, Director-General of Police, Prison & Correctional Services, Sunil Kumar Singh said 58 mobile phones were purchased for prisoners to make video calls to their family members in lieu of the physical interviews that were temporarily suspended in view of the pandemic.
  • (Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the helpline number 104.)

Click here to read a comprehensive analysis on Prison reforms.

Source: TH


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