Model Prisons and Correctional Services Act, 2023
GS- II >> Social Justice >> Prison Reforms
Context: A copy of the Model Prisons and Correctional Services Act, 2023 was for the first time published on the Union Home Ministry’s website.
Status in India: Prisons: India has 1,319 prisons, comprising 564 Sub Jails, 424 District Jails, 148 Central Jails, 88 Open Jails, 41 Special Jails, 32 Women Jails, 19 Borstal Schools, and 3 Other than the above Jails.
Prisoners: According to the NCRB, as of December 31, 2021, a total of 554,034 prisoners were held across the country. The distribution includes 122,852 Convicts, 427,165 Undertrial inmates, and 3,470 Detenues, constituting 22.2%, 77.1%, and 0.6% respectively.
About Model Prisons and Correctional Services Act, 2023:
- The Ministry of Home Affairs, in collaboration with stakeholders, introduced the ‘Model Prisons and Correctional Services Act, 2023’ on May 10, 2023.
- It addresses various aspects of prison management, emphasizing reformation, rehabilitation, and prisoner integration into society.
- Includes provisions for ‘Welfare Programs for Prisoners’ and ‘After-Care and Rehabilitation Services.’
Key features of Model Prisons and Correctional Services Act, 2023:
- Allows electronic tracking devices for prisoners on leave, with violations leading to leave cancellation.
- Mandates advanced security infrastructure for high-risk prisoner wards, along with independent court facilities.
- Requires the integration of technology like biometrics, CCTV, RFID, and digitization for effective prison management.
- Recommends the use of cellular jamming in jails and imposes a three-year imprisonment penalty for unauthorized cell phone use by inmates.
- Calls for a classification and security assessment committee to segregate prisoners based on various criteria.
- Advocates separate cells for different categories of prisoners, including considerations for age, gender, health, and criminal history.
Need for Model Prisons and Correctional Services Act:
- Replaces outdated colonial legislation (Prisons Act 1894 and Prisoners Act 1900).
- Reflects a global shift in perspective, viewing prisons as reformative and correctional institutions rather than places of deterrence.
- Addresses the lack of provisions for reform and rehabilitation in existing Acts.
- Aims to modernize and reform prison management to align with evolving perspectives on criminal justice.
- Recognizes ‘Prisons’/ ‘Persons detained therein’ as a ‘State List’ subject.
- Encourages State Governments to use the guidance from the Model Act to enact suitable legislation in their jurisdictions for improved prison management and administration.
Issues with Prisons in India:
- Latest data (till 2021) shows a 130% occupancy rate in prisons.
- Capacity increased from ~3.3 lakhs in 2011 to ~4.25 lakhs in 2021.
- Number of prisoners expanded from ~3.72 lakhs in 2011 to ~5.54 lakhs in 2021.
- Overcrowding challenges segregation of serious and minor offenders, impacting rehabilitation
- Rising Undertrials:
- Undertrial population reached 77% in 2021, rising from 64% in 2011.
- Prolonged incarceration without trial violates basic rights.
- Disproportionate representation of disadvantaged sections, influenced by laws like the Habitual Offenders Act and Beggary Laws.
- Mistreatment and Torture:
- Forced hard labour without adequate compensation.
- Instances of torture and increasing deaths in custody.
- Women inmates face harassment.
- Shortage of Staff:
- Approximately 33% of the total required jail authorities remain unfilled.
- Staff-to-prisoner ratio is 1:7, leading to violence and illegal activities.
- Comparison with the UK, where there are 2 prison officers for every 3 prisoners.
- Poor Hygiene:
- Most prisons lack hygiene, adequate medical facilities, and extreme weather accommodations.
- Women inmates face additional challenges due to poor conditions.
- Social Issues:
- Prisoners lack regular interaction with families, leading to mental health issues.
- Prolonged separation contributes to psychological challenges.
- Psychological Issues:
- Prolonged incarceration without trial leads to depression in undertrials.
- Overcrowded cells cause stress, anxiety, and claustrophobia.
- Prisons may worsen mental health, hindering the reformative purpose.
International measures related with Prisons:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948):
- Principles of administration of justice
- No one should be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile
- Right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a public trial with all necessary guarantees for defence
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):
- Core international treaty on the protection of prisoners’ rights.
- Ratified by India in 1979; provisions must be incorporated into domestic law and state practice.
- International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESR): Prisoners have a right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
- Declaration on Protection from Torture (1975): Acts in tandem with human rights principles to protect individuals from torture, inhuman, and cruel behaviour.
- General UN Directives:
- Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (1988)
- Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (1990)
- Justice Mulla Committee (1983):
- All India cadre for prison staff and placing prisons under the concurrent list.
- Government formation of a National Policy on Prisons.
- Advocacy for alternatives to imprisonment, such as community service.
- Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Committee (1987):
- Suggested separate institutions with women employees for women offenders.
- Emphasized provisions to uphold the dignity of women, even if convicted.
- Committee under the Chairmanship of Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development (2005):
- Utilized recommendations from the Justice Mulla and Justice Krishna Iyer Committees.
- Proposed additional recommendations and drafted the National Policy on Prison Reforms and Correctional Administration, 2007.
- Justice Amitava Roy Panel on Prison Reforms (2018-2020):
- Addressed Overcrowding: Proposed special fast-track courts for petty crimes.
- Recommended maintaining a Lawyers-Prisoners Ratio, with at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners.
- Tackled Understaffing: Advocated Supreme Court directions to initiate recruitment against vacancies. Suggested the use of video-conferencing for trials.
- Focused on Prisoners: Advocated allowing new prisoners a free daily phone call to family members during the first week. Encouraged exploring alternative punishments.