Context: Recently , The Centre has finalised a comprehensive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’ to replace the pre-independence era ‘Prisons Act, 1894’ which mainly focused on keeping criminals in custody and enforcing discipline and order in prisons.
The Model Prisons Act, 2023, is being introduced following the spate of killings and gang violence within prisons. One such incident was the killing of 33-year-old Tillu Tajpuriya, who was allegedly stabbed to death by members of a rival gang inside Tihar jail.
About Model Prisons Act 2023
- The current ‘Prisons Act, 1894’ is almost 130 years old and mainly focuses on keeping criminals in custody and enforcing discipline and order in prisons, with no provision for reform and rehabilitation.
- MHA assigned the task of revising the Prisons Act, 1894, to the Bureau of Police Research and Development.
- Under the new Act, prisons will be viewed as reformative and correctional institutions, with a focus on transforming and rehabilitating inmates back into society as law-abiding citizens.
- The Model Prisons Act, 2023 aims to ;
- Address the gaps in the existing Prisons Act by providing guidance on the use of technology in prison management.
- Make provisions for parole, furlough, and remission to prisoners to encourage good conduct.
- Special provisions for women and transgender inmates.
- Focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.
Features of the new Model Prisons Act;
Some salient features of the new Model Prisons Act include
- Provision for security assessment and segregation of prisoners.
- Individual sentence planning.
- Grievance redressal.
- The establishment of a prison development board.
- A focus on the physical and mental well-being of prisoners.
- Use of technology in prison administration, such as video conferencing with courts and scientific and technological interventions in prisons.
- Punishment of prisoners and jail staff for using prohibited items like mobile phones in jails.
New provisions being proposed;
- It seeks to create provisions for the grant of parole, furlough, and remission to prisoners to encourage good conduct.
- It aims to provide separate accommodation for women and transgender inmates, ensure the physical and mental well-being of prisoners, and focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.
- It also intends to bring about “attitudinal change towards prisoners” and initiate vocational training and skill development for prisoners for their reintegration into society.
- It also seeks to bring about “transparency in prison management” .
Is the Model Prisons Act, 2023, binding on states?
- As per the provisions of the Constitution, ‘prisons’ and ‘persons detained therein’ fall under the State List.
- This means that the responsibility of prison management and administration solely vests with the state government, which alone is competent to make appropriate legislative provisions in this regard.
- So, the ministry also clarified while announcing the 2023 Act that it “may serve as a guiding document for the States” so that they may benefit from its adoption in their jurisdictions.
Prisons Act, of 1894;
- It defined a “prison” as “any jail or place used permanently or temporarily under the general or special orders of a State Government for the detention of prisoners”, excluding police custody and subsidiary jails.
- It demarcated prisoners into three different categories according to the nature of their crimes, such as “criminal prisoner”, “convicted criminal prisoner” and “civil prisoner”.
- The 1894 Act dealt with provisions for accommodation, food, clothing, bedding segregation, and the discipline of prisoners, including solitary confinement.
- It also laid down provisions for the prisoners’ employment, health, and visits.
Flaws in 1894 Act
- The act had no provisions for reformation or rehabilitation and permitted “whipping, provided that the number of stripes shall not exceed thirty,” albeit for only male prisoners.
- This Act did not apply to “civil jails in the State of Bombay, outside the city of Bombay, and those jails administered under the provisions of Sections 9–16 of the Bombay Act, 1874.
The Prisoners Act 1900
- It was introduced with the objective of consolidating the “several acts relating to prisoners” and replacing the “separate enactments by a single act, expressed more simply and intelligibly.”
- Presently, the jail manuals of each state also deal with the administration and management of its prisons.
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTION
Q1. Consider the following statements: (2023)
In India, prisons are managed State Governments with their own rules and regulations for the day-to-day administration of prisons.
In India, prisons are governed by the Prisons Act, 1894 which expressly kept the subject of prisons in the control of Provincial Governments.
Which one of the following is correct in respect of the above statements?
- Both Statement-I and Statement-II are correct and Statement-II is the correct explanation for Statement-I
- Both Statement-1 and Statement-II are correct and Statement-II is not the correct explanation for Statement-I
- Statement-I is correct but Statement-II is incorrect
- Statement-I is incorrect but Statement-II is correct
SOURCE: The Indian Express