Draft Prison Policy

In a recent EPW article, Vijay Hiremath draws attention to a new Prison Policy drafted by an almost-secretive commission constituted entirely of prisons bureaucracy, which took many organisations working on prison reform by surprise. This alleged non-cunsultative procedure could only have created a state-centered policy, as Hiremath alleges is the case.

Yet, there are some interesting aspects to the policy. One that caught my attention was the statement that ‘The committee has also recommended alternatives to imprisonment and extensive amendments to the Prisons Act of 1884.’ I haven’t seen the report and don’t know if this suggests an official recognition of community sentences. But as this article explains, the judiciary is already imposing community sentences in some cases (their legality is qestionable since I doubt whether current criminal laws provide enough scope for imposition of such sentences). This is an important development, and one needs to see whether the report gives adequate attention to the problems with community sentences, specifies which crimes deserve it and which must be dealt with by incarceration alone. The idea has been employed in many countries for years now, and is a useful one to interrogate. But we must have better reasons to adopt it than the sole fact that our prisons have run out of space.

Written by
Tarunabh Khaitan
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  • Community sentencing is not taking place in its strict sense. It needs to be given a serious thought. Especially for persons between 18-21 years of age. Also the categorisation of qualifying for a community sentence should depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and not on the crime committed by the person.

  • Sir,
    The article doesnot touch upon the Justice Mullah report. Also IPS officers who are not wanted by the ruling political dispensation are normally shunted out to prison as its IG. so the Prison officials except in tihar are normally IPS of unwanted kind. They take out their frustration on Prison staff who are normally locals while the shunted IPS is normally from outside the state.Also most of the prisoners are locals.
    But the prison staff donot differnetiate between a common criminal or terrorist.The terrorists like Madani(who had political clout to boot),Shahabuddin,Tajuddin etc creat TERROR inside prisons and RULE PRISONS just like Shobraj did with his Drug money.for example Arthur road prison in Mumabi is ruled by Salem as is bangalore central prison by telgi.It is common knowledge to local prison staff.
    The recent bomb attacks in bangalore was planned, cordinated from Chennai Pulal central prison by a life convict ali(with sophisticated cell and satellite phones) says it all. the lawyer defending him said it all.How can a prison staff will implicate himself that he was in the payroll of terrorists or terroised by him!!!!!!!!!!

  • On community sentencing, or seeking ways, in clinical police reform language to ‘rehabilitate’ a ‘criminal’ back in the community by alternate forms of sentencing, for people interested, I would recommend a recent decision of the South African Constitutional Court that decides in favour of rehabilitating a convict single mother in the society as opposed putting her behind bars. The case of M is decided on the basis of the ‘best interest of her children’, but documents the historical development of community sentencing in South African law, bizarrely, during the apartheid years. Something that does not seem to have happened in India.