The archaic prison regulations in India are useless in the modern era and are frequently broken. The emphasis on the urgent necessity for reforming prison rules and their enforcement in the aforementioned Oscar Wilde remark is appropriate. This is essential because it guarantees that the inmates do their function in society.
The detainees are frequently denied access to their basic rights while being held in horrific conditions. Due to the wrongs they have done to society, they are frequently considered as deserving of this treatment.
The argument that the mistreatment of these justifiable hostages is acceptable is utterly false because the goals of these prisons are in direct conflict with punishing inmates by depriving them of their fundamental human rights.
Current Prison provision:
One of the earliest and most significant pieces of legislation to oversee prison-related regulations in India is the Prisons Act, 1894. The Act, which went into effect on July 1st 1894, covers every facet of the jails' efficient operation.
The phrases "prisons," "criminal prisoner," "convicted prisoner," and "civil prisoner" are all defined in Section 3 of the Act. The Act also addresses jail personnel and upkeep, and it designates the Inspector General as the person in charge of carrying out all duties assigned by the state. The Act also specifies each of the officers' responsibilities under Section 8-20.
The Act also establishes a few fundamental prisoner disciplinary rules and governs issues of the admission, expulsion, and release of convicts. Additionally, the Act stipulates guidelines for Chapter 8 prisoners' health treatment.
Even though the Act is comprehensive and covers many areas of how prisons operate, its provisions are out of date and cannot be used in the present due to a number of factors that will be examined more.
Rights protected by the Indian Constitution and other laws:
- Equal rights under the law (guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India).
- Safeguarding all freedoms and rights (guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India).
- The preservation of life and individual freedom (guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India).
- Prisoner accommodations and hygiene standards (as per Chapter 8 of the Prisoners Act).
- Provisions governing a competent medical officer's examination of inmates (as per Section 38 of the Prisoners Act).
- Separating male and female inmates, criminal and civil inmates, as well as indicted and awaiting trial inmates (as per Section 27 of the Prisoners Act).
- Provision of clothing and bedding for prisoners who are not convicted criminals and in civil cases (as per Section 33 of the Prisoners Act).
- Right to request forgiveness (as per the remission system established under the Prisoners Act).
Required prison reforms:
- Since the Prisoners Act of 1894, which sets out the laws for prisons, was passed more than a century ago, it is inappropriate to use it today. This is due to the Act's emphasis on maintaining the convicts' lives above facilitating their reform and rehabilitation.
- Additionally, there is no distinction between serious and minor criminals who are being tried; they are all treated equally.
- Despite the fact that there are rules to guarantee adequate healthcare and other basic services, the reality in terms of jail management is sometimes exactly the contrary. There are major health consequences as a result of the prisons' lack of adequate and nourishing meals, basic healthcare services, etc.
- The number of people awaiting trial vastly outweighs the number of prisoners housing convicted criminals. Even though those being held pending trial ought to be treated fairly and as though they are innocent until proven guilty, they frequently receive treatment on par with or worse than that of those who have already been found guilty.
- According to NCRB 2019 data, 3.3 lakh convicts, or 69.05% of all prisoners, were awaiting trial. Over one-fourth of these have spent at least a year in prison. Detaining just the accused for so long is a violation of their rights and a limitation on a number of their freedoms. These include the freedoms of liberty, of expression, of mobility, of employment, of dignity, and of the lawful right to vote.
- Prison overcrowding is a serious issue that affects prison cleanliness and prevents prisoners from being separated based on the offence they committed. The occupancy rate in 2019 was 118.5%, up 1.1% from 2018, according to NCRB 2019 data.
- Detainees who are awaiting trial make up a sizable portion of the congestion. Faster case resolution is required to address this problem and lower the backlog of cases.
- In addition to congestion, there is a staffing issue with prison guards. The real number of officials is much lower than the authorised number. This has frequently led to a scarcity of medical personnel, jail staff, female jail staff, etc.
- Poor money has been spent on the convicts' welfare and healthcare, including on food, clothes, medical costs, vocational/educational programmes, welfare activities, and other things.
- While some prisons engage in a variety of cutting-edge initiatives, others mostly concentrate on antiquated vocational training programmes. Well-designed prison programmes are required to include regular daily activities, vocational training, pre-discharge counselling, and post-release supervision.
- Major concerns include prison guards and authorities physically abusing inmates. Unjustified beatings are frequently tolerated in jails around the nation and can go unnoticed by people outside of them. The detainees' rights are being violated, and the officials can continue to operate in this way without facing any repercussions.
- Male convicts are less likely to be abused than female prisoners. They frequently experience sexual abuse from male convicts, prison guards, or officials in addition to physical violence. Due to their slavery, the female detainees have experienced harassment, abuse, and sometimes torture.
- In addition, women frequently serve longer sentences as a result of their poorer awareness and legal education. Additionally, they are more likely to experience family rejection, which exacerbates their psychological suffering.
- The prison regulations place more of an emphasis on punishing and limiting inmates than on mending them. To help inmates reintegrate into society as law-abiding citizens, consistent reformative programmes and rehabilitation are required.
Following the creation of the prison legislation, a number of other problems have surfaced, including overcrowding, physical abuse, stigmatisation, custodial brutality, a lack of adequate healthcare, basic amenities, etc.
These go against the liberties and rights guaranteed to all people by the Indian Constitution. To adapt the current jail laws to the current difficulties faced in the prisons, reformatory programmes must be incorporated together with new regulations. Since the Prisons Act of 1894 was passed, a number of changes have occurred. It is urgently necessary to update the law and enact changes in response to the demands and issues that are currently present in prisons.
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