The Union government has announced that it has prepared a Model Prisons Act to replace the current 130-year-old law i.e., Prisons Act, 1894. This is done in order to shift the focus of incarceration from retributive deterrence to reform and rehabilitation.


About Prisons Act, 1894 and the Need for a new Law

  • The present ‘Prisons Act, 1894’ is a pre-independence era Act and is almost 130 years old.
  • The Act mainly focuses on keeping the criminals in custody and enforcement of discipline and order in prisons.
  • There is no provision for reform and rehabilitation of prisoners in the Act.
  • In the last few decades, an altogether new perspective has evolved about prisons and prison inmates, globally.
  • Prisons today are not looked as places of retributive deterrence but are considered as reformative and correctional institutions where the prisoners are transformed and rehabilitated back into society as law abiding citizens.
  • As per the provisions of Constitution of India, ‘prisons’/ ‘persons detained therein’ is a ‘State’ subject.
  • The responsibility of prison management and prisoners’ administration solely vests with State Governments who alone are competent to make appropriate legislative provisions in this regard.
  • However, given the critical role that efficient prison management plays in the criminal justice system, the Government of India attaches high degree of importance to supporting the States/UTs in this regard.


About Model Prisons Act, 2023

  • A need was felt to revise and upgrade the Act in tune with modern day needs and requirements of prison management.
  • Hence, a decision was taken to by the Central government to review and revise colonial-era outdated Prison Act, in tune with contemporary modern day needs and correctional ideology.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs assigned the task of revision of the Prisons Act, 1894 to the Bureau of Police Research and Development.
  • The Bureau, after holding wide ranging discussions with State Prison authorities, correctional experts etc. prepared a draft.
  • Along with Prisons Act, 1894, ‘The Prisoners Act, 1900’ and ‘The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950’ have also been reviewed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and relevant provisions of these Acts have been assimilated in the ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023.’
  • State Governments and Union Territory Administrations can benefit from the Model Prisons Act, 2023 by adopting it in their jurisdictions, with such modifications which they may consider necessary, and repeal the existing three Acts in their jurisdictions.


Salient Features of the new Model Prisons Act

  • Provision for security assessment and segregation of prisoners, individual sentence planning.
  • Grievance redressal, prison development board, attitudinal change towards prisoners.
  • Provision of separate accommodation for women prisoners, transgender, etc.
  • Provision for use of technology in prison administration with a view to bring transparency in prison administration.
  • Provision for video conferencing with courts, scientific and technological interventions in prisons, etc.
  • Provision of punishment for prisoners and jail staff for use of prohibited items like mobile phones etc. in jails.
  • Provision regarding establishment and management of high security jail, open jail (open and semi open), etc.
  • Provision for protecting the society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders, etc.
  • Provision for legal aid to prisoners, provision of parole, furlough and premature release etc. to incentivise good conduct.
  • Focus on vocational training and skill development of prisoners and their reintegration into the society.