The essential thought behind the incorporation of prison system in our society have been liable to renewal, reintegration and recovery of wrongdoers among the general public by way of care and suitable treatment keeping in lines with the jail discipline. It is the major duty of the State to rehabilitate detainees rather than to avenge the anti–social behavior shown by them. Prison inmates have stayed at the edges of welfare and social work intercession and have never been seen as in need or meriting social administrations. With the improvement in criminology as a subject of enquiry, a steady move has occurred, whereby the person alone is not any more considered accused of his/her standard or law breaking conduct. This movement has prompted the improvement in comprehension of wrongdoing causation, which incorporates mental, social, monetary and political components that lead to degenerate conduct in individuals.
The advancement of psycho-social administrations for prison inmates is an immediate outcome of this change in the comprehension of wrongdoing. The movement has incorporated a continuous approach move far from the death penalty, torment and crippling types of discipline, detainment as and not for discipline, more altruistic custodial conditions, security of legitimate and human rights, and lastly, an emphasis on retraining and restoration. Since the changing eras of time, the mode of imprisonment too has varied on Indian land, it has transformed from deterrent hash method to reformative and there has been almost complete ban of barbaric punishments.
The major milestones in the past ameliorating the prison reforms in India have been appointment of All India Jail Committee (1919-20) by the State, Govt. of India Act, 1935 transferred the subject of prison administration from centre to the regimentation of the provincial governments.
Also, the Centre has set up various committees such as All India Prison Reforms Committee (1980), R.K. Kapoor Committee (1986) and Justice Krishnan Iyer Committee (1987) to improve prison conditions and administration, which have resulted in prison modernization, i.e., new jails and additional barracks, etc.
Presently, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (known as Tokyo Rules) have been received by the vast majority of the Indian detainment facilities. Its execution depends upon the remedial office powers. A kind-hearted official ensures that the lower level staff too takes after the prescribed standards.
The High Court of Rajasthan has observed in Pappu Khan vs State Of Rajasthan And Ors. (2006 (1) WLC, 31), “The emergence of Reformative Theory of punishment in the 20th Century saw a sea change in the Prison System. Prisoners were no longer to be chained and forgotten; they were to be reformed and brought back into the Society. In order to encourage the prisoners to reform themselves during the period of incarceration, certain motivational techniques were introduced in the jail administration. Besides granting remission, having open air camps, parole have been a great motivation force.” Yet there is a wide scope of improvement.
In Rama Murthy v. State of Karnataka (AIR 1997 SC 1739), the Court has identified as many as nine issues facing prisons and needing reforms. They are: (i) over-crowding; (ii) Delay in trial; (iii) Torture and ill-treatment; (iv) Neglect of health and hygiene; (v) Insubstantial food and inadequate clothing; (vi) Prison vices; (vii) Deficiency in communication; (viii) Streamlining of jail visits; (ix) Management of open air prisons. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records as on 31st December, 2013 the number of under trial prisoners was 67.6% of the entire prison population and that the percentage was unacceptably high.
Prison overcrowding compels prisoners to be kept under conditions that are unacceptable in light of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Offenders to which India is the signatory. There is a need for immediate steps to be taken to utilize the provisions of plea bargaining, the establishment of fast track courts, holding of Lok Adalats and ensuring adequate means for the production of the accused before the Court directly or through video conferencing. Moreover, as it was pointed out in T. K. Gopal v. State of Karnataka (2000 6 SCC 168), that we need to acknowledge the vital fact that the prisoner, after being lodged in jail, does not lose his fundamental rights or basic human rights and that he must be treated with compassion and sympathy. Therefore the major problems faced by these prisoners are delay in providing justice, inadequate court infrastructure, and inaccessibility of a large number of prisoners to legal help, which also accentuate the insensitivity of authorities and law enforcement agencies towards prisoners’ rights, thereby, ultimately not fulfilling the purpose of jail set up for the present modern society .As said by, Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Therefore such injustice with prisoners is also an important issue for the state to look into as the latter is the protector of this progressive society.