Prisons and Prison Reforms in India

Topics: Prison, Penology, Criminal justice Pages: 18 (4999 words) Published: October 3, 2014
The existence of Prisons can be traced back to the ancient period. Initially there was a belief that rigorous isolation and custodial measures would reform the offenders. In due course it is being substituted by the modern concept of social defense.

Custody, care and treatment are the, three main functions of a modern prison organization. For over 100 years, there was emphasis on custody which, it was believed, depended on good order and discipline. The notion of prison discipline was to make imprison­ment deterrent.

Consequently, hard punitive labour with no regard for the human personalities and severe punishments were the main basis of prison treatment. More than 40 prison offences have been listed in the jail manuals of many States and any infraction was visited by quite a few barbaric punish­ments.

Gradually, the objective of imprisonment changed from mere deter­rence to deterrence and reformation. This led to the abandonment of some of the barbaric punishments and introduction of the system of awards for good work and conduct in the form of remission, review of sentences, wages for prison labour, treatment in open conditions, parole, furlough, canteen facilities etc.

Revision has now been made to meet adequately the basic needs of food, clothing, medical care etc. Educational and vocational training programmes along with training in scouting etc, have been introduced in jails. Custodial requirements for individuals are now at some places determined on the basis of their antecedents, conduct and performance etc.

Despite these measures, there is yet no clear cut policy measure on prison reforms. A major problem is overcrowding in prisons especially of under trial prisoners. The courts in recent years have also been giving serious thought to the violation of human rights of prisoners.

One can hope that in the years to come the present gap between the prisons in theory and practice will be bridged quickly and a well planned and well coordinated programming of treatment and rehabilitation will be implemented for which adequate and efficient staff and financial resources will be provided.

Sufficient staff, adequate financial assistance and on the whole improvement in prison conditions will bring concrete changes re­sulting in rehabilitation of offenders. Prisons are known to have existed throughout history. Originally the dun­geons of old castles were used for confining enemies and rivals for enforcing on them the conditions of release.

But this was private or political use of prisons later they were used for detaining offenders while awaiting trial or until such time as punishment was meted out.

Sentencing offenders to terms of imprison­ment is comparatively a recent development. It started in the fifteenth century and became a major form of punishment in the nineteenth century.

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 behavioral sciences, it began to federalize that reformation of offenders was not possible by detention alone.

The traditional approach of retribution and deterrence is being gradually replaced toy the modern concept of social defense which means protection of society and prevention of crime

In ancient India abandoned small fortresses were used as prisons. During the Muslim period. Quranic laws were followed and imprisonment was rarely awarded.

During the British period, the East India Company introduced various re­forms in "the administration of justice. There were at that time 143 civil jails containing thousands of prisoners, most of whom were employed on the con­struction of roads.

Every effort was made to run the prisons profitably. There was widespread corruption and abuse of powers by the prison keepers. In 1835, Lord Macaulay drew attention to tine horrible conditions in Indian prisons...
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