Open Prisons in India and Recent Supreme Court DirectionsRajasthan Prison Rules define open jail as, “Prisonswithout walls, bars and locks.”Objectives of establishing open prisons are:· To reduce overcrowding in jails, · To reward good behaviour, · To give training in self-reliance, · To provide dependable permanent labour forpublic works, · To prevent frustrations and create hope amonglong-termers, · To provide training in agriculture and industry,· To examine the suitability of releasingoffenders from prisons, and · To enable prisoners to live with their familymembers (in some states) Open prison which is open in followingrespects:· Open in security, i.e.
, there is absence ofwalls, bars, locks and armed guards.· Open to prisoners, i.e.
, inmates can go out buthave to come back in the evening.· Open in organisation, i.e.
, working is based oninmates’ sense of self-responsibility, self-discipline, and self-confidence;and· Open to public, i.e., people can visit theprison and meet prisoners. It is the kind of authority and the nature ofmanagement transferred to the inmates and the degree of freedom from physicalrestraints (to escape) that should be the real measure of openness of an openprison.
International Rules on Open Prison· The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules forthe Treatment of Prisoners, popularly known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, laid downthe objectives of open prisons stating, that such prisons provide no physicalsecurity against escape but rely on the self-discipline of the inmates, providethe conditions most favourable to the rehabilitation of carefully selectedprisoners.History of Open PrisonThe first open prison was established in Switzerland in 1891Open Prison in India· In India, the first open prison was established in1905 in Bombay Presidency. · Uttar Pradesh established the first open prisoncamp in 1953 for the construction of a dam over Chandraprabha River near Varanasi.· After completing this dam, the prisoners of thePen camp were shifted to a nearby place of constructing the dam over KaramnasaRiver. The third camp was organised at Shahbad for digging a canal.
· A permanent camp-called Sampurnanad Shivir-wasestablished in 1960 at Sitarganj in Udham Singh Nagar District of Uttarakhand (UttarPradesh that time)· At present, the Sitarganj camp has 3,837 acresof land and is one of the largest open prisons in the world.Who can be admitted to Open Prisons?Eligibility conditions for admission to open prisons vary fromstate to state. The main conditions are:· Prisoners should be willing to abide by therules of open prisons.· They should be physically and mentally fit towork.
· They should have been sentenced for terms of oneyear or more and must have spent at least one-fourth of the total term ofimprisonment in jail.· They should have record of good behaviour inprisons.· They should not be below 21 years or above 50years as prescribed by the state.· They should not have been convicted for certaintypes of crimes (like dacoity, forgery, counterfeiting, etc.).· They should not have any case pending in thecourts.
· They should not be habitual offenders.· Theyshould not be class I prisoners or women prisoners.Case Study on Open PrisonGhosh (1993) studied 200 prisoners from two open prisons(Sitarganj and Mirzapur) in Uttar Pradesh in 1991 for analysing attitudes,Personality traits, of prisoners in open jails. For a comparative study , she select 200 prisoners from twocentral jails of Banaras (Varanasi) and Bareilly in the same state.She focused on two aspects: personality variables and adjustmentlevel.
In Personality variables, she studied three aspects: (a)self-esteem, (b) Suilt-feeling, anxiety and insecurity, and (c) extroversion,neuroticism, and psychoticism. She found that:· More prisoners in open prisons indicate a highlevel of adjustment to personal problems as well as to co-inmates and the staffthan those in closed prisons. The high adjustment is the result of betterfacilities and free environment.· Inmates in open prisons exhibit more positiveself-esteem and positive attitude towards co-inmates than those in closedprisons.· Anxiety, insecurity and guilt-feelings are foundmore among the inmates of closed jails than open camps.· Attitude towards authorities is more cooperativeamong prisoners in open camps than those in closed jails.
Supreme Court Directive on Open Prison· The Supreme Court has directed the Centre tohold meetings with prison officials across the states and the Union Territoriesto set up open prisons in the country. · The issue came up when the court was hearing aPIL on the poor state of the prisons in the country.All-India Committee on Jail Reform Recommendation The All-India Committee on Jail Reformconstituted in 1980 recommended the government to set up and develop openprisons in each state and UT. PRISON REFORMSIssues related to prisons OvercrowdingUndertrials – the number of under-trials constitute64.7 percent of total inmates Neglect of health and hygiene andgiving Insufficient food and inadequate clothing Focus onretribution rather thanreformation and rehabilitation ? Cumbersome process to conduct research afternew rules have been put in place owing to Nirbhaya documentary incident. ? Nopolicy to monitor and constructively engage the inmates after their release.This hinders their re-integration in the society.
? Prison managementis a state subject. Therefore, there are great variations in Prison manualsamong different states. Solutions ? Accountability: The only wayto thwart what goes on in these institutions is to make them accountable.
? Surveillance:Supreme Court last year ordered to install CCTV cameras in all the prisonsin the country. ? Monitoring: Prison monitors are mandated to regularlyvisit jails, listen to prisoners’ grievances, identify areas of concern, andseek resolution. ? Psychological: Providing counselling to inmates iscrucial to deal with the ordeal they undergo in custody.
? Registering andreporting cases: File FIR and report all cases of custodial death to theNHRC within 24 hours of their occurrence and giving punishment to the erringprison officials ? Guidelines: NHRC has repeatedly issued guidelines toprevent and respond to custodial deaths. It is time for the State governmentsto start taking these guidelines seriously. ? Comprehensive anti-torturelegislation – Even Supreme court has told government to consider passing acomprehensive anti-torture legislation ? Independent investigation -Establishing an independent mechanism for timely and effective investigation ofcases of custodial torture and for the rehabilitation and compensation forvictims as investigation by police itself may be biased. ? Focus onreformation – The main objective of ‘correction’ strategy should be toinduce positive change in the attitude of criminals. For this, providing themvocational training, employing them meaningfully after release, creating anopen prison system for non-hard core criminals etc.
should be tried ? Uniformity- Central Government along with NGO’s and prison administration should takeadequate steps for a uniform jail manual throughout the country. ? Intensive’After Care’ on completion of the term to overcome their inferior complexand save them from being ridiculed as convicts. ? Reforms in bail laws- sothat bail remains a norm and jail an exception for all people not just rich andaffluent. Recent steps ? In March 2017, Bombay High court directedgovernment to comprehensively review conditions in prisons following which anempowered committee was set up. ? The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) is working on anational digital database of undertrials. ? Proposals for video-conferencingfacilities in recently established Legal Assistance Establishments whereundertrials or their kin or legal representatives can view information abouttheir cases. ? Supreme Court ordered to release undertrials who have alreadycompleted half of their jail term if they would have been found guilty.
? The Parivarthanaprogramme taken up in Andhra Pradesh has proved to be a boon to prisonersto reform themselves and lead a dignified life after their release from jail.Under this, Parivarthana Centres have come up at district jail and sub-jails.