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Prison Reforms

In News: The Prime Minister suggested prison reforms to improve jail management and also recommended repealing obsolete criminal laws, at the annual police meet that concluded recently.

About the Prison Reforms

  • Suggestions were made for making the police forces more sensitive and training them in emerging technologies.
  • Also, emphasis was made on the importance of the National Data Governance Framework for the smoothening of data exchange, across agencies.
  • Leverage technological solutions like biometrics etc., and the need to further strengthen traditional policing mechanisms like foot patrols were also suggested.
  • Other suggestions include:
    • Strengthening of the border and coastal security by organising frequent visits of officials to these locations.
    • Enhancing cooperation between the State Police and Central Agencies to leverage capabilities and share best practices.
    • Replicating the model of the DGsP/IGsP Conference at the State/district levels, for discussing emerging challenges and evolving best practices among their teams.

Rights of Prisoners in the Constitution

  • Right to life: The right to life has been explicitly mentioned as a fundamental right that finds no distinction between a prisoner and a common citizen.
  • Right to live with human dignity: Right to live with human dignity is part of right to life under Article 21 of the constitution. It prescribes a certain dignity for an individual, including a prisoner.
  • Right to health and medical treatment: The right to health and medical treatment is a part of right to life that is applicable to all people.
  • Right to legal aid: Right to free legal aid has been mentioned under Article 39A. Despite being non-enforceable, the State should keep this in mind while framing rules and regulations for prisoners.

Current status of Prisons in India

  • Capacity: In the last decade, the capacity of Indian prisons has increased from some 3.32 lakh to 4.25 lakh.
  • During the same period, the number of prisoners has shot up from 3.7 lakhs to 5.54 lakh in the same period.
  • While the number of prisons has seen a 27% increase, the number of prisoners has witnessed a 48% increase which is a clear mismatch.
  • Problems across states:
    • The issue of overflowing jails is more acute in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi.
    • In Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Jharkhand over 60% of the position of officers were vacant.
    •  In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Maharashtra, less than Rs. 20,000 was allocated to each prison inmate in 2019-20.

Under-trials in Indian Prisons

  • NCRB data: Based on the NCRB data of 2021, 77 per cent of the 554,034 prisoners were undertrials. This was a 14.9 per cent increase from 371,848 undertrials in prison in 2020.
  • Reasons: The pendency of cases is the main reason for undertrials remaining in prison.
  • State-wise trend: Uttar Pradesh topped the chart with the highest number of undertrials, followed by Bihar and Maharashtra.
Under-trials in Indian Prisons
Under-trials in Indian Prisons

Issues in the Indian Prison System

  • Mentality of the system: People involved in prison management suffer from a colonial hangover, which prescribes harsh treatment for prisoners.
  • Overcrowding: Indian prisons are overcrowded with inmates, with the majority of them under trial.
  • Delay in the trial: Indian judicial system is notorious for its slow process. The people under trial are stuck in jails, unable to procure bonds for bail.
  • Lack of infrastructure: The majority of jails in India suffer from lack of basic prison infrastructure such as sleeping quarters, hygienic washrooms, and health clinics.
  • Power abuse: Administrators have allowed illegal activities inside the premises in the past for a certain amount of money. Law and order condition in Indian prisons is not up to the mark.
  • Insufficient Legal Aid: There are many accused individuals who are forced to stay in prison due to their inability to pay legal fees to fight their cases. In such instances, the state must provide legal aid to give them a fair chance.

Various Prison Reforms

  • The Indian jail reform committee: Macaulay’s Minute of 1835 was responsible for laying down the foundations of the prison system in India.
  • Modern Prison Manual: An All-India Jail Manual Committee was set by the Indian government to prepare a Jail Manual. The bedrock of prison management in India is based on the manual.
  • Justice Mulla committee: The Mulla committee was set up in 1980 to review the laws, rules, and regulations for protecting society and reforming offenders.
  • Justice Krishna Iyer committee: The Iyer committee highlighted the plight of women prisoners and suggested the need to induct more women into the Police Services and management.
  • Justice Roy committee: The committee made recommendations with respect to issues such as overcrowding in prisons and correctional homes and recommend remedial measures.
  • Justice Malimath Committee: The committee suggested reforms such as replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without commutation or remission.

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Current capacity of Prisons in India?

Capacity: In the last decade, the capacity of Indian prisons has increased from some 3.32 lakh to 4.25 lakh.

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