Free legal aid to poor prison inmates
The new Model Prison Manual approved by the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, provides for free legal aid to the inmates belonging to disadvantaged sections. It aims at sensitizing jail staff regarding gender issues and sexual abuse. The comprehensive manual allows a person sentenced for capital punishment to meet family members one last time and access legal services even after rejection of mercy petitions.
What is a prison manual?
According to the Indian Constitution, prisons and their administration is a state subject. Hence, the state governments frame their own laws, rules and regulations relating to prisons. To check the large scale variations in these laws, rules and regulations across states, the central government issues guidelines in the form of a model prison manual to bring homogeneity in them across states.
Overcrowding and security lapses in prisons
According to the Comptroller and Auditor General, majority of prisons are overcrowded in Gujarat. Sabarmati prison has 150% more inmates than its capacity, Vadodra has 193% occupancy while Junagarh has 165%. It also highlighted the poor health care facilities for inmates due to shortage of medical staff and equipment. It also pointed to severe shortage of security staff and non-functioning of CCTV cameras.
Disproportionately high undertrials in prisons
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2014, 68% of jail inmates in India have not yet been convicted of their crime. It represents the agonizing pace of the criminal justice system in the country.
HC directs inquiry over miserable prison conditions
The Bombay High Court (HC) directed an inquiry after prison conditions were found to be extremely poor in many jails including the Yeravada Jail, Pune. The HC was examining a report which showed that prisons lacked basic facilities of human needs including toilets and bathrooms. There were merely 19 toilets for 327 women in Byculla prison, which were not maintained or cleaned regularly.
Model Prison Manual
The new Model Prison Manual focuses on the responsibility of the State to provide services even after the discharge of prisoners such as rehabilitation, reintegration into society, etc. It has special provisions for women prisoners including health check-ups, issues relating to mental ailments, drug addiction, etc. It also provides for counseling to those suffering from psychological problems such as victims of sexual abuse, etc.