The Union Home Secretary had sent a letter to all states and Union territories in May, 2023 which consisted of the ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’. The letter was uploaded recently on the Union Ministry of Home Affair’s website.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- Prisons Act, 1894
- Need for a New Law
- Model Prisons Act, 2023
Prisons Act, 1894
- Prisons Act, 1894: A pre-independence era Act, nearly 130 years old.
- Focus: Primarily centered on the custody of criminals and maintaining discipline in prisons.
- Lack of Rehabilitation Provisions: No provisions for the reform and rehabilitation of prisoners.
Changing Perspective on Prisons:
- Global Evolution: In recent decades, a global shift in perspective views prisons as reformative and correctional institutions.
- Transformational Approach: Focus on transforming prisoners into law-abiding citizens.
- State Subject: Constitutionally, ‘prisons’ and ‘persons detained therein’ fall under the jurisdiction of the State.
- Legislative Competence: States have the exclusive authority to legislate on prison management and prisoners’ administration.
Need for a New Law:
- Rehabilitation Emphasis: Modern understanding sees prisons as institutions emphasizing rehabilitation.
- Role in Criminal Justice: Efficient prison management’s critical role in the criminal justice system.
- Government Support: The Government of India recognizes the importance of supporting States/UTs in ensuring effective prison management.
Emphasis on Reform and Rehabilitation:
- Shift in Purpose: From retributive deterrence to reformative and correctional objectives.
- Transformation into Law-Abiding Citizens: Prisons seen as places for transforming inmates into law-abiding members of society.
- Government Role: Acknowledging the State’s competence, the central government underscores the significance of supporting States/UTs in prison management.
- Collaborative Approach: Recognizing the collaborative effort required for effective prison reform and rehabilitation.
Model Prisons Act, 2023
Background and Revision Process
- Need for Revision: Recognizing the outdated nature of the colonial-era Prison Act, a decision was made to revise it.
- Central Government Initiative: The Central government tasked the Bureau of Police Research and Development with the revision of the Prisons Act, 1894.
- Collaborative Approach: Wide-ranging discussions with state prison authorities and correctional experts were held to inform the revision.
Integration of Relevant Acts
- The Ministry of Home Affairs reviewed not only the Prisons Act, 1894 but also ‘The Prisoners Act, 1900’ and ‘The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950.’
- Assimilation in Model Prisons Act: Relevant provisions from these acts were assimilated into the new ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023.’
Adoption by States and Union Territories
- Adoption Flexibility: State Governments and Union Territory Administrations can adopt the Model Prisons Act, 2023 with necessary modifications.
- Repeal of Existing Acts: The existing three Acts can be repealed in favor of the new model legislation.
Salient Features of Model Prisons Act, 2023
- Security Assessment and Segregation:
- Individual sentence planning for prisoners.
- Grievance Redressal and Attitudinal Change:
- Establishment of a prison development board.
- Fostering an attitudinal change towards prisoners.
- Accommodation for Special Groups:
- Separate housing for women prisoners, transgender individuals, etc.
- Technology Integration:
- Use of technology for transparent prison administration.
- Video conferencing with courts and technological interventions.
- Prohibition Measures:
- Provision for punishment for the use of prohibited items like mobile phones.
- Different Types of Jails:
- Establishment and management of high-security jails, open jails, etc.
- Crime Prevention Measures:
- Focus on protecting society from hardened criminals and habitual offenders.
- Legal Aid and Incentives:
- Provision for legal aid to prisoners.
- Incentives for good conduct through parole, furlough, and premature release.
- Rehabilitation and Reintegration:
- Emphasis on vocational training, skill development, and reintegration into society.
-Source: Indian Express