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Model Prisons Act

  • Published
    29th May, 2023
Context

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) decided to completion the Model Prisons Act of 2023 to shift the focus of incarceration away from retributive deterrence and towards reform and rehabilitation.

What is the context in which the 2023 Act is being proposed?

  • The Model Prisons Act of 2023 is being introduced following a 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.
  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) asked the Union Home Ministry to shift several gangsters lodged in north India’s prisons to those in the southern states.

Recently, The MHA assigned the task of revising the Act to the Bureau of Police Research and Development, who prepared the draft, which culminated in the 2023 Act.

What are the new provisions being proposed?

  • The Model Prisons Act, 2023 is an attempt to overhaul the colonial 1894 Act and create provisions for parole, furlough, and remission to prisoners.
  • Objective: It also 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.
  • Protection of prisons: It also seeks to bring about "transparency in prison management" and includes provisions for security assessment and segregation of prisoners, individual sentence planning, grievance-redressal, prison development board, use of technology in prison administration, and protecting society from criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders.
  • Video conferencing: It also introduces new measures for prisoners to video conference with courts, but if a prisoner is using prohibited items in jail, they will be punished for it.

What were the previous prison laws?

  • Prisons Act of 1894: The first legislation that governed the management and administration of prisons in India.
    • 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 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.
  • However, it had no provisions for reformation or rehabilitation and permitted “whipping, provided that the number of stripes shall not exceed thirty.”
  • Prisoners Act of 1900: The Prisoners Act 1900 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”.
    • It also included provisions on how to deal with lunatic prisoners and allowed prisoners to be removed from prisons on conditions like receiving death sentences and maintaining good behaviour within prisons.
  • Currently, the jail manuals of each state also deal with the administration and management of its prisons.

Is the Model Prisons Act, 2023, binding on states?

  • The Constitution states that prisons and persons detained therein fall under the State List, meaning that the responsibility of prison management and administration lies with the state government.
  • However, the MHA stated that due to the critical role played by efficient prison management in the criminal justice system, the Centre finds it crucial to support the States and UTs in this regard.
  • Additionally, the existing Prisons Act was revised to align it with modern day needs and requirements of prison management.
  • The ministry of home affairs 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.
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