All men are born equal and are endowed by their creator with some basic rights. These rights are mainly right to life and liberty, but if any person doesn’t comply with ethics of the society then that person is deprived of these rights with proper punishment. Many experts believe that the main objective of prisons is to bring the offenders back to the mainstream of the society. Various workshops had been organized by the State Government in collaboration with NGO’s to bring reforms in the current prison systems.
Prisons are known to have existed throughout the history. Existence of prisons can be traced back to the ancient period. It was believed that rigorous isolation and custodial measures would reform the offenders. Experience, however, belied this expectation and often imprisonment had the opposite effect. With the development of behavioural sciences, it began to federalize that reformation of offenders was not possible by detention alone.
Prisons are not normal places. The prisoners are deprived of freedom and personal contacts with family and friends. The utility of prison as an institution for rehabilitation of offenders and preparing them for normal life has always been a controversial issue.
There are quite a large number of offenders who are otherwise well behaved and are persons of respectable class of society but they fall prey to criminality on account of momentary impulsiveness, provocation or due to situational circumstances. There is yet another class of prisoners who are otherwise innocent but have to bear the rigours of prison life due to miscarriage of justice. Obviously such persons find it difficult to adjust themselves to the prison surrounding and find life inside the prison most painful and disgusting.
The real purpose of sending criminals to prison is to transform them into honest and law abiding citizens by inculcating in them a distaste for crime and criminality. But in actual practice, the prison authorities try to bring out reformation of inmates by use of force and compulsive methods. Consequently, the change in the inmates is temporary and lasts only till they are in the prison and as soon as they are released they again get attracted towards criminality. It is for this reason that the modern trend is to lay down greater emphasis on the prisoners so that they can be rehabilitated to normal life in the community. This objective can be achieved through probation and parole. The sincerity, devotion and tactfulness of the prison officials also help the in the process of offender’s rehabilitation.
Prison’ is a State subject under State List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The management and administration of Prisons falls exclusively in the domain of the State Governments, and is governed by the Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prison Manuals
Ramamurthy v. State of Karnataka
The Supreme Court, in its landmark decision in Ramamurthy v. State of Karnataka, has identified nine major problems which need immediate attention for implementing prison reforms. The court observed that the present prison system is affected with major problems of;
The modern prison system in India was originated by TB Macaulay in 1835. A committee namely Prison Discipline Committee,1836. The contemporary Prison administration in India is thus a legacy of British rule. It is based on the notion that the best criminal code can be of little use to a community unless there is good machinery for the infliction of punishments.
All India Committee on Jail Reforms 1980-83 was constituted by the government of India under the chairmanship of Justice Anand Narain Mulla. The committee suggested setting up of a National Prison Cmmission as a continuing body to bring about modernisation of prisons in India. The basic objective of the Committee was to review the laws, rules and regulations keeping in view the overall objective of protecting society and rehabilitating offenders. It recommended a total ban on the heinous practice of clubbing together juvenile offenders with hardened criminals in prisons. To constitute an All India Service called the Indian Prisons and Correctional Service for the recruitment of Prison Officials. After-care, rehabilitation and probation should constitute an integral part of prison service. The Mulla Committee submitted its reportin1983. Some other recommendations of Mulla Jail Committee were as follows:
In the year 1986, a Juvenile Justice Act was enacted and observation homes, special homes, and juvenile homes were constituted, where the neglected children and juvenile delinquent can be admitted and the juvenile delinquent cannot be tried with the non juvenile delinquent offenders and cannot be kept within the prison. Many provisions were made regarding the orders that could be passed against the juvenile offenders and what cannot be passed against the juvenile offenders.
In 1987, the Government of India appointed the Justice Krishna Iyer Committee to undertake a study on the situation of women prisoners in India. It has recommended induction of more women in the police force in view of their special role in tackling women and child offenders
Nowadays imprisonment does not mean to break the stones or grind the chakkies but the sense has changed. Undoubtedly, the condition of modern prison system is far better than that in the past but still much remains to be done in the direction of prison reforms for humane treatment of prisoners. The following modification in prison administration can be suggested for improving the efficiency of these institutions:
The under trial prisoners are rightly not obliged to work under the law but remaining unemployed is not only against their own interest but also a national waste. A policy of persuasion rather than coercion to engage under trial prisoners in work was thus advocated and if they chose to work they were to be paid wages. But in practice when they opt to work, they are employed on prison services and are in lieu thereof given laboring diet and no wages.
Recently, the criminal law has provided that the period of detention as under trial shall be counted towards the sentence of imprisonment. This will mitigate some hardship but will not by itself encourage under trials to volunteer for work. Quite a large number of under trial prisoners are detained in jails for long periods as they are unable to afford fees of lawyers to defend them.
In recent years the government has given some attention to this problem and efforts are being made to give free legal aid to the poor. If this facility is extended to a large number of poor persons, it would not only in the long run result in the shortening of the period of detention of under trials but might in some cases result in acquittal also.
The women prisoners should be treated more generously and allowed to meet their children frequently. This will keep them mentally fit and respond favourably to the treatment methods. A liberal correctional and educational programme seems necessary in case of women delinquents. Particularly, the women, who fall prey to sex offences, should be treated with sympathy and their illegitimate children should be assured an upright life in the society. The idea of setting up separate jails for women provides the free environment for providing special treatment to them. The first women jail was established in Maharashtra at Yarwada. Conformity with strict prison discipline is no guarantee that the prisoner has really transformed into a law abiding citizen.
Taking inspiration from Anglo-American developments in the correctional field of penology, the Indian penologists were convinced that India also cannot tackle its crime problem by putting criminals in prison cells. The institution of open prisons seems to be viable alternative to harsh imprisonment system. The whole thrust in these open-prison institutions is to make sure that after release the prisoners may not relapse into crimes and for this purpose they are given incentives to live a normal life, work on fields or carry on occupation of their choice and participate in games, sports or other recreational facilities. These are the minimum-security prisons. In this liberal remissions are given to extent of 15 days in a month. The State of Uttar Pradesh was first to set up an open air camp attached to Model Prison at Lucknow in 1949.
The basic premise of most efforts to reform prison system is that this can be done without any fundamental transformation of the structure of the society as a whole. The liberal perspective on reform is that fundamental changes in the prison system are possible without fundamental changes in the rest of the society, while the radical perspective is that fundamental changes in prison can come about only through radical changes in the society itself.
The attitude of the society need to be changed in respect of prisoners. Prison constitutes important institution which protects the society from criminals. Prison confines people against their will. The cause of social change is the psychology of man himself. Man is by nature a lover of change. He is always trying to discover new things in every sphere of his life and is always anxious for novel experiences. As a result of this tendency traditions, customs, etc. of every human society are perpetually undergoing change. A human being is able to apply new customs and methods to replace the old traditional customs are being formed. Change is the law of life when change does not occur at the appropriate time, revolutions take place.
The causes of social change are diverse, and the processes of change can be identified as either short-term trends or long-term developments. Change can be either cyclic or one directional. The mechanisms of social change can be varied and interconnected. Several mechanisms may be combined in one explanatory model of social change. The object of Criminal Law is to protect the society from crime and criminals. It is, therefore the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed, etc. It is expected that the courts would operate the sentencing system so as to impose such sentence which reflects the conscience of the society and the sentencing process has to be stern where it should be.
To ensure good discipline and administration, an initial classification must be made to separate male from females, the young from the adults, convicted from the unconvinced prisoners, civil from criminal prisoners and from casual from habitual prisoners. The main object of prison labour is prevention of crime and reformation of the offenders. And the other main object was to engage them so as to prevent mental damage and to enable them to contribute to the cost of their maintenance.
The under trail prisoners constitute a majority of population in prison than convicted prisoners. The under trial prisoners are presumed to be innocent and most of them are discharged or acquitted after immeasurable physical and mental loss caused to them by detention due to delay in investigation and trial. The courts have in recent years been giving serious thought to the of human rights of prisoners and have, on that ground, interfered with the exercise of powers of superintendents of jails in respect of measures for safe custody, good order and discipline.
Research into crime and the criminal is still in its infancy. The immediate need of research is to evaluate the existing methods of treatment and to suggest new approaches to the prevention of crime. The value of probation, open prisons, parole and home leave as reformatory measures need to be established.
Prisons constitute important institutions which protects the society from criminals. The obstacles in prison reforms are resource allocation, the deterrent functions of punishment, the notion of rehabilitation, and internal control. All these must be addressed.