On June 15, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expressed the need to establish prisons as ‘Sudhaar Grah’ (Reform Homes) in Uttar Pradesh. He reviewed the prison condition in a high-level meeting and gave important guidelines towards prison reform.
As per the official statement, he issued instructions regarding the preparation of the new Prison Act of the state. The statement further said, “We have to set UP prisons as ‘Reform Homes’. Every necessary step should be taken for this purpose. Arrangements like security assessment of prisoners, grievance redressal, Prison Development Board, change in behaviour towards prisoners and provision of separate accommodation for women prisoners and transgender etc. should be implemented”.
On May 19, the Government finalised a comprehensive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’ replacing the outdated 130-year-old Prison Act, which may help as a guiding document for the States. According to this Model Act, a new Prison Act of Uttar Pradesh has been prepared, keeping in mind the needs of the state.
The Yogi Adityanath-led UP Government has recently approved the new jail manual. It would be an important effort towards prison reforms. The new prison act makes solid efforts to establish prisons as better centres for rehabilitation.
The Chief Minister stated, “The purpose of the Jail Act 1894 is to keep the criminals in custody in a disciplined manner, but we have to focus on reformation and rehabilitation. In such a situation, keeping the future in view, we need to implement new laws”.
According to the official statement, “High-security barracks should be prepared for prisoners who are a big threat to the country and society like habitual criminals and terrorists. High standards should be strictly followed for their safety”. CM Yogi Adityanath called for enforcing the harshest punishment for using banned items like mobile phones in prisons.
The statement further adds, “Technology should be used more in order to bring transparency to prison administration. At present, the entry/exit of prisoners in the jails of the state is being done through e-prison. Prisoners’ Information Management System, Visitor Management System, E-custody Certificate, and Police Intelligence System are being implemented. More than 4200 CCTV cameras are installed in the jails of the state, which are constantly monitored through video walls installed in the headquarters, on which alerts are also received, which altogether are yielding good results”.
The new Jail Act also calls for integrating drone cameras with video to monitor prisoners. Even the provision of video conferencing with the courts will be provided by the authorities as per the new jail manual. In this regard, CM Yogi has also mandated officials to prepare a formal proposal for establishing an open jail. Currently, there is a semi-open jail operational in Lucknow.
Currently, the provisions of the Jail Act of 1894 and the Prisoners Act of 1900 do not align with changing circumstances and a rehabilitative ideology for prisoners.
In this regard, the Union Government has recently prepared the Model Prison Act 2023 on May 19. This Model Act is very useful from the point of view of reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners. 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.
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.
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’.