On May 19, the Government finalised a comprehensive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’ replacing the outdated 130-year-old Prison Act, which may help as a guiding document for the States. The decision was taken under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the guidance of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
As per the Union Home Ministry, this new act will allow security assessment and segregation of the prisons, such as providing separate wards for women and transgender people or giving punishment for conniving jail staff, among other provisions.
With no provisions for reform and rehabilitation, the present “Prisons Act, 1894” is approximately 130 years old and primarily concentrates on keeping criminals in jail and imposing discipline and order in prisons.
The ministry commented on the lack of reform and rehabilitation provided in the current prison system, “prisons today are not looked at 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”.
While understanding about the much-needed change in the prison laws, the ministry said, “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 that 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”.
With the help of the Bureau of Police Research and Development, after holding wide-ranging discussions with State Prison authorities, correctional experts etc. prepared a draft.
The ministry emphasised filling the gap in the existing Prisons Act “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, etc”.
Apart from ‘The Prisons Act, of 1894’, the Home Ministry also reviewed ‘The Prisoners Act, of 1900’ and ‘The Transfer of Prisoners Act, of 1950’ by taking relevant provisions of these Acts and assimilating them into the ‘Model Prisons Act, of 2023’.
Salient Features of ‘Model Prisons Act 2023’
-Provision for using technology in prison administration to bring transparency, such as using video conferencing with courts.
-Grievance redressal, prison development board, attitudinal change towards prisoners.
-Special provision of separate accommodation for women and transgender inmates.
-Punishment for prisoners and jail staff for using prohibited items like mobile phones.
-Provision for protecting society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders
– To incentivise good conduct, prisoners will be provided with parole, furlough, premature release, etc., depending on their conduct in prison.
– Provision for legal aid to prisoners.
-Provision regarding establishing and managing high-security jails, open jails (open and semi-open), etc.
-Focus on prisoner rehabilitation by providing vocational training and skill development to reintegrate into society.