Model Prisons Act 2023


  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced that it has finalized the preparation of the Model Prisons Act 2023, to replace the existing 130-year-old colonial law in an attempt to shift the focus of incarceration from “retributive deterrence” to “reform and rehabilitation”.

About Model Prisons Act 2023

  • Intending to provide guidance and address gaps in the existing prison laws, the 2023 Act seeks to bring in the use of technology in prison management, make provisions for the grant of parole, furlough, and remission, and introduce special provisions for women and transgender inmates.
  • The Model Prisons Act, 2023, is being introduced following the spate of killings and gang violence within prisons. 
    • The pre-Independence Prisons Act, 1894, focused on keeping criminals in custody and enforcing discipline and order in prisons, leaving “no provision for reform and rehabilitation of prisoners”.
    • The MHA assigned the task of revising the Prisons Act, 1894, to the Bureau of Police Research and Development
  • The Model Prisons Act seeks to create provisions for the grant of parole, furlough, and remission to prisoners to encourage good conduct.
  • Additionally, it aims to provide separate accommodation for women and transgender inmates, ensure the physical and mental well-being of prisoners, and focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.
  • The new Act also intends to bring about “attitudinal change towards prisoners” and initiate vocational training and skill development for prisoners for their reintegration into society.
  • The 2023 Act also seeks to bring about
    • “transparency in prison management” and includes provisions for security assessment and segregation of prisoners;
    • individual sentence planning;
    • grievance-redressal;
    • prison development board; use of technology in prison administration; and protecting society from criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders.
  • Provisions for establishing high-security jails and open, semi-open jails have also been inserted.
  • Apart from this, new measures for prisoners to video conference with courts have also been introduced.
    • However, if a prisoner is using prohibited items like mobile phones in jail, they will be punished for it.
  • Along with the Prisons Act, 1894, the Prisoners Act, 1900, and the Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950’ have also been reviewed by the MHA, and their relevant provisions have been assimilated into the Model Prisons Act, 2023.

Is the Model Prisons Act, 2023, binding on states?

  • As per the provisions of the Constitution, ‘prisons’ and ‘persons detained therein’ fall under the State List.
    • This means that the responsibility of prison management and administration solely vests with the state government, which alone is competent to make appropriate legislative provisions in this regard.
  • However, the MHA stated that owing to the critical role played by “efficient prison management” in the criminal justice system, the Centre finds it crucial to support the States and UTs in this regard.
Model Prisons Act 2023
Courtesy: Hindustan Times

What were the previous prison laws?

  • The first legislation that governed the management and administration of prisons in India was the Prisons Act, of 1894.
  • It defined a “prison” as “any jail or place used permanently or temporarily under the general or special orders of a State Government for the detention of prisoners”, excluding police custody and subsidiary jails.
  • Further, it demarcated prisoners into three different categories according to the nature of their crimes, such as “criminal prisoner”, “convicted criminal prisoner” and “civil prisoner”.
  • The 1894 Act dealt with provisions for accommodation, food, clothing, bedding segregation, and the discipline of prisoners, including solitary confinement. It also laid down provisions for the prisoners’ employment, health, and visits.
  • However, the act had no provisions for reformation or rehabilitation and permitted “whipping, provided that the number of stripes shall not exceed thirty,” albeit for only male prisoners.
  • Moreover, this Act did not apply to “civil jails in the State of Bombay, outside the city of Bombay, and those jails administered under the provisions of Sections 9–16 of the Bombay Act, 1874.
  • Thus, the Prisoners Act 1900 was introduced with the objective of consolidating the “several acts relating to prisoners” and replacing the “separate enactments by a single act, expressed more simply and intelligibly.”
  • The Act dealt with the prisoners within presidency towns and those outside; it also included provisions on how to deal with lunatic prisoners and allowed prisoners to be removed from prisons on conditions like receiving death sentences and maintaining good behaviour within prisons.
  • Besides these, there were other legislations, like the Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950, which also provided for the removal of prisoners from one state prison to another.
  • However, presently, the jail manuals of each state also deal with the administration and management of its prisons.

Source: IE

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