Jail Reforms

Jail Reforms

This article deals with ‘Jail Reforms.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Oct 2018 :  Supreme Court formed a committee on prison Reforms headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Amitava Roy. (But this is not the first time that such a body is being set up, example being the Justice A.N. Mulla committee )
  • June 2017 : murder of a women life convict in Byculla women’s prison over missing ration

Punjab Cases

  • March 2019 : IG PS Umranangal given special treatment in Jail in blatant violation of Punjab Jail Manual
  • Evergreen issue : periodic seizure of drugs and mobile phones from inmates
  • 2012 Bibi Jagir Kaur : Special treatment given to her in Kapurthala Modern Jail

Problems with Prison System

  • Overcrowding : occupancy rate at all-India level was 114 %
  • Jail Manual Problem
    • Outdated Jail Manuals prepared during Colonial Times.
    • Prison management is a state subject. Therefore, there are great variations in Prison manuals among different states.
  • Frequent cases of Custodial Deaths, Custodial Suicides & Custodial Rapes
  • Undertrials : Number of under-trials constitute 67% of total inmates (UK : 20%) with major reasons being lack of money to obtain bail or delay in trial. NHRC has called this a case of blatant Human Right violation 
  • Neglect of health and hygiene and giving Insufficient food and inadequate clothing
  • Focus on retributive justice rather than reformation and rehabilitation
  • Availability of drugs inside the prisons
  • Access to mobiles to prisoners to beat the communication protocol.
  • Influential prisoners get concessions  privileges and favourable exemptions like recent V.K. Shashikala Case (Tamil Nadu)
  • Difficulty of re-integration in Society : No Vocal Training and  psychological help given so that prisoners on release can re-integrate in society. Most of times, jails produce hardened criminals instead of reformed person


  • Surveillance & Monitoring :
    • Supreme Court last year ordered to install CCTV cameras in all the prisons in the country.
  • Reforms in bail laws– so that bail remains a norm and jail an exception for all people not just rich and affluent. It will address problem of Overcrowding and Undertrials
    • May 2017 – Law Commission headed by Justice (Retd) BS Chauhan highlighted  once again that bail is the norm and jail the exception  but it’s application is limited to rich and affluent while people from lower socio-economic strata languish in jails. Commission recommended to make it easier for all those awaiting  trial to obtain bail
    • Law Commission has also recommended to Amend CrPC such that (268 Report, 2017)
      • Those detained for an offence that would attract up to seven years’ imprisonment be released on completing one-third of that period (currently , it is half)
      • those charged with offences attracting a longer jail term, after they complete half of that period.
      • For those who had spent the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone may be considered for remission.
  • Focus on reformation – provide them vocational training, employing them meaningfully after release, creating an open prison system for non-hard core criminals etc. should be tried
  • Upgradation and Uniformity in Manuals  –
  • Justice Mulla Committee suggested setting up of a National Prison Commission as a continuing body to bring about modernization of prisons in India.
  • Implement National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Guidelines to Custodial Deaths  : FIR should be filed and all cases must be reported  to the NHRC within 24 hours of their occurrence . Erring prison officials should be given exemplary punishment . 
  • Make Comprehensive anti-torture legislation – Even Supreme court has told government to consider passing a comprehensive anti-torture legislation
  • Reintegration within Society : Parivarthana programme taken up in Andhra Pradesh has proved to be a boon to prisoners to reform themselves and lead a dignified life after their release from jail. Under this, Parivarthana Centres have come up at district jail and sub-jails.
  • Option of Open Jails can also be considered which follows rehabilitative approach instead of retributive one.

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