Centre finalises ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’, new law to allow reform, rehabilitation

May 13, 2023 12:29 AM IST

The new law, MHA said, will replace the existing colonial era prisons act, which had become ‘outdated’.

The government has finalised a comprehensive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’, which allows security assessment and segregation of prisons, separate wards for women and transgenders and punishment for conniving jail staff among other provisions, union home ministry said on Friday.

Prisons are a state subject in the Constitution. (Representative file image)
Prisons are a state subject in the Constitution. (Representative file image)

The new law, MHA said, will replace the existing colonial era prisons act, which had become ‘outdated’ as it focused on keeping the criminals in custody, enforcement of discipline in prisons rather than “reform and rehabilitation of prisoners”.

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Prisons are a state subject in the Constitution.

“Over the past few years, the MHA noted that there are several lacunae in the existing Prisons act, which regulates the prison administration in all states and union territories, apart from a few states who have enacted a new Prisons act. Besides the conspicuous omission of the correctional focus in the existing act, a need was felt to revise and upgrade the act in tune with modern day needs and requirements of prison management,” the ministry said in a statement.

Also Read: Fixing jail security needs sober steps

“....a decision was taken to review and revise colonial-era outdated prison act, in tune with contemporary modern day needs and correctional ideology,” it said, while adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union home minister Amit Shah guided the move.

The development comes at a time when incidents of gang violence have been reported inside India’s largest prison – Tihar and central agencies like National Investigation Agency (NIA) are probing cases of gangsters running their operations from inside the prison.

A gangster - Tillu Tajpuria was stabbed in full view of security personnel inside Tihar on May 2 by four rival gang members.

Some of the features of the new act, revised by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) in consultation with states’ prison authorities, correctional experts, include “security assessment and segregation of prisoners; individual sentence planning, grievance redressal, prison development board, attitudinal change towards prisoners, separate accommodation for women prisoners, transgender, and punishment for punishment for prisoners and jail staff for use of prohibited items like mobile phones, inside prison premises”, MHA said in a statement.

It also has a provision of establishing and managing high security jail, open and semi-open jails in states, protecting the society from criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders and legal aid to prisoners, provision of parole, furlough and premature release, to incentivize good conduct.

Besides, there is provision for use of technology by prison administration with a view to bring transparency, video conferencing facility with courts, scientific and technological interventions in prisons, and focus on vocational training and skill development of prisoners and their reintegration into the society, the ministry added.

The existing prisons act is almost 130 years old. It was enacted by the British in 1894 and “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”.

“In the last few decades, a new perspective has evolved altogether about prisons and prison inmates, globally. Prisons today are not seen 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,” MHA said.

The new comprehensive act, the ministry said, may serve as a guiding document for the states, and for adoption in their jurisdiction.

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 added.

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