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Significance of prison reforms in India


  1. The Centre announced the Model Prisons Act, 2023, aimed at reforming prison management and transforming inmates into law-abiding citizens who can be rehabilitated into society.


  1. The 2023 Act replaces Prisons Act of 1894, the British-era law and marks a significant step towards ensuring a more effective and comprehensive approach to prison management.
  2. The prison population in India is one of the largest in the world, with over 4,50,000 inmates housed in around 1,350 prisons.
  3. The Centre has reviewed ‘The Prisons Act, 1894’, ‘The Prisoners Act, 1900’, and ‘The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950’ and incorporated relevant provisions from these Acts in the newly announced ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’.

Issues in the previous act

  1. conspicuous omission of the correctional focus in the existing Act
  2. no provision for reform and rehabilitation of prisoners in the existing Act

What is in the Act?

  1. “Model Prisons Act, 2023" aims to address gaps in the current Prisons Act and provide holistic guidance for prison management.
  2. Prisons in the country and ‘persons detained therein’ are a State subject.
  3. Technology in prison management: The new model act includes provisions for the use of technology in prison management, granting parole, furlough, and remission to encourage good conduct, ensuring the physical and mental well-being of prisoners, and focusing on their reformation and rehabilitation.
  4. The aim is to provide a guiding document for states to adopt in their jurisdictions and improve prison systems across the country.
  5. State Governments and Union Territory Administrations can bene?t from the Act by adopting it in their jurisdictions, with such modi?cations which they may consider necessary, and repeal the existing three Acts in their jurisdictions.

Salient Features

Right of Prisoners

  1. The rights of prisoners are covered under the Prison Act, 1894.
  2. Right To Legal Aid
  3. Right To Speedy Trial
  4. Right Against Solitary Confinement And Protection From Torture
  5. Security: Provision for security assessment and segregation of prisoners, individual sentence planning, grievance redressal, prison development board, attitudinal change towards prisoners.
  6. Accommodation: Provision of separate accommodation for women prisoners, transgender, etc.
  7. Technology: Provision for use of technology in prison administration with a view to bring transparency in prison administration.
  8. Provision for video conferencing with courts, scientific and technological interventions in prisons, etc.
  9. Provision of punishment for prisoners and jail staff for use of prohibited items like mobile phones etc. in jails.
  10. Open jail: Provision regarding establishment and management of high security jail, open jail (open and semi open), etc.
  11. Protection for society: Provision for protecting the society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders, etc.
  12. Legal aid: Provision for legal aid to prisoners, provision of parole, furlough and premature release etc. to incentivise good conduct.
  13. Skill development: Focus on vocational training and skill development of prisoners and their reintegration into the society.

Recent measures taken by the Government

  1. Financial assistance for prisoners: In line with one of the announcements of the Union Budget, ‘Support for Poor Prisoners’, the scheme envisages financial support to poor persons.
  2. E-Prisons Project: The E-prisons project supplements the Prisoner Information Management system (PIMS) which provides a centralized approach for recording and managing prisoner information and generating different kinds of reports.
  3. Model Prison Manual 2016: The manual provides detailed information about the legal services (including free services) available to prison inmates. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an advisory to all States and UTs informing them about the legal aid facility available to under-trial prison inmates.
  4. National Legal Services Authority: It has launched a web application to facilitate the under trial prisoners with free legal services. The objective of the above application is to make the legal services system more transparent and useful.
  5. Legal Aid and Awareness Scheme: It is aimed at providing legal aid and awareness to prisoners across the country. The scheme includes the establishment of legal aid clinics in prisons, which provide prisoners with free legal advice and representation.
  6. Prisons e-Library project: It is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Informatics Centre aimed at providing prisoners with access to digital learning resources.