New Delhi: A new ‘Model Prisons Act 2023’ that will replace the 130-year-old pre-independence era law has been prepared by the Centre to address lacunae in the existing law and focus more on reformation and rehabilitation of inmates, the Union home ministry said on Friday.
Among the salient features of the model Act are provisions of punishment for prisoners and jail staﬀ for use of prohibited items like mobile phones etc. in jails and providing for legal aid to prisoners, provision of parole, furlough and premature release etc. to incentivise good conduct, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said in a statement.
Prisons in the country and ‘persons detained therein’ are a State subject and the existing law in this context, the Prisons Act of 1894 is a pre-independence era Act and is almost 130 years old, it said. Two other related laws are quite old–The Prisoners Act, 1900 and The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950.
The home ministry found there were ”several lacunae” in the existing Prisons Act and there was ”conspicuous omission” of the correctional focus in the existing Act. The ministry, hence, directed the Bureau of Police Research and Development, a Union government think tank on policing subjects, to review the laws and prepare a new draft. ”The (existing) Act mainly focuses on keeping the criminals in custody and enforcement of discipline and order in prisons. There is no provision for reform and rehabilitation of prisoners in the existing Act,” it said.
The home ministry said a comprehensive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’ was finalised with the objective of holistically providing guidance and addressing the gaps in the existing Prisons Act including the use of technology in prison management, making provisions for grant of parole, furlough, remission to prisoners to encourage good conduct, special provision for women/transgender inmates, physical and mental well-being of prisoners and focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.
The model Act, it said, may serve as a ”guiding document” for the states, and for adoption in their jurisdiction.
”Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and decisive guidance of Union home minister Amit Shah, a decision was taken to review and revise colonial-era outdated Prison Act, in tune with contemporary modern day needs and correctional ideology.” ”The Ministry of Home Aﬀairs assigned the task of revision of the Prisons Act, 1894 to the BPRD. The Bureau, after holding wide ranging discussions with state prison authorities, correctional experts etc. prepared a draft,” the ministry said in the statement.
Along with The Prisons Act, 1894, The Prisoners Act, 1900 and The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950 have also been reviewed by the MHA and relevant provisions of these Acts have been ”assimilated” in the ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’, it said. State governments and Union Territory administrations can benefit from the Model Prisons Act, 2023 by adopting it in their jurisdictions, with such modiﬁcations which they may consider necessary, and repeal the existing three Acts in their jurisdictions, the MHA said.
Some of the focus areas of the model Act provide for security assessment and segregation of prisoners, individual sentence planning; grievance redressal, prison development board, attitudinal change towards prisoners and provision of separate accommodation for women prisoners, transgender, etc.
The model Act also talks about provision for use of technology in prison administration with a view to bring transparency in prison administration, provision for video conferencing with courts, scientiﬁc and technological interventions in prisons, etc.
Among other stress areas are provision of punishment for prisoners and jail staﬀ for use of prohibited items like mobile phones etc. in jails, allocation regarding establishment and management of high security jail, open jail (open and semi open), etc. and provision for protecting the society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders, etc.
The model Act also has provisions for legal aid to prisoners, provision of parole, furlough and premature release etc. to incentivise good conduct and focus on vocational training and skill development of prisoners and their reintegration into the society, the MHA said.
It said that in the last few decades, an altogether ”new perspective” has evolved about prisons and prison inmates, globally. ”Prisons today are not looked as places of retributive deterrence but are considered as reformative and correctional institutions where the prisoners are transformed and rehabilitated back into society as law abiding citizens,” the statement said. (Agencies)