Reforms and present situation of the prison system in India



We can’t even think about living without family, friends, and no choice over what to eat and where to go. But the fact is that the one who has committed crime has to live with all these. As per law these people get what they deserve when they commit any crime. These peoples have to live in prisons in these kind of environment. One day these prisoners have to be transformed in a well-being and honest and law abiding citizens of the society. The way they are reforming, rehabilitation, in the cell they are living is important. Use of force and hatred towards them is no solution and in integrated criminal system of India the deteriorating condition of prisoners is a fiery issue in a legal scenario which needs to be reformed in the scenery of which Supreme Court has issued various directives. In the earlier times there are various pursuit to better the situation of the prison system. So we will critically examine the present conditions, challenges and reforms to conduct a reality check on the prison management system.

Background and reforms:-

The prison administration in India is originated by T.B Macaulay in 1835. Following the proposal of the lord Macaulay committee, the development of the prison system was started from this period.

Prison enquiry committee, 1836

The responsibility to examine discipline among the prisoners and abuse of power by the jail authorities was started with the office of inspector general of prison. Proper food, clothing and medical treatment was top priority.

Prison enquiry committee, 1862

This committee was formed to review the administration system of prisons in India. The overcrowding and unsanitary conditions were the main concern because there were several deaths due to illness and diseases. Better clothing and food, regular medical checkup and minimum space for each prisoner was recommended.

Prisons act, 1894

The third and other two enquiry committee were also formed in 1877, 1889 and 1892 as well. As a consequences of these recommendations, the Prisons act, 1894 was formed to bring about the consistency in the regulation of prisons in India. Under this act, the provinces have the power to set their own rules for the administration of prisons and the sentence of whipping was also abolished as well.  In our country “Prison” falls under the subject of state in List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The administration of Prisons falls under the ambit of State Governments and is administered by the Prisons Act, 1894. However this act failed to accomplish some task and curb the loopholes of the system,

Period (1907-1921)

During these period various reforms were made to improve the condition of juvenile and young offenders. The efforts were made to protect them from adult offenders who are being living in the impure and bad environment.

The government of India act, 1935

From the enactment of this act, the provinces were empower to have their own rules, policies and procedure. The subject of jail was transferred from central to administration of provincial government.

The jail reform committee, 1983

The jail reform committee, 1983 was recommended to set up a National prison commission to lookup the modernization of prison system in India. The committee put up a ban on locking up both juvenile and adult criminals together. It formulated protective legislation for the minor juveniles. It recommended classification of prisoners on rational and scientific basis. Separated mentally ill prisoners to mental institution.

The juvenile justice act, 1986

The children has been recognized as the future of the nation. Their development and protection is utmost priority. The juvenile justice act aims to consolidate and amends the law relating to juvenile in conflict with law. It provides a framework for protection, treatment and rehabilitation of the young offenders in the purview of juvenile justice system.


Analysis and Present status of prisons in India:-

  • As we are living in a modern world, primarily we must first have to look on solutions in every problems. The present reformative schemes is quite adequate but it still need some help in rebuilding the character of their personality and curing the diseased mind of a prisoner. Reformative theory is the best example of the diseased mind and insanity of an offender which can be cured.
  • Tihar jail, Delhi and prison department of the State of the Andhra Pradesh has also adopted some reformative schemes.
  • Tihar jail, Delhi is the largest complex of prisons in India and south Asia. It has provided many reformative schemes, some of them are as follows: like participation of prisoners in number of sports and cultural activities, formal and adult knowledge or education with library facility, yoga and meditation, legal aid, English and Hindi vocational classes, special courts and lok adalats, commercial arts, participation reformation classes, ventilation of hardship etc.
  • In the department of prison in the state of Andhra Pradesh many facilities like television, radio, indoor games, septic toilets and bathroom were provided respectively in prisons. Degree and certificated courses are provided through correspondence education from government universities at lower cost. Prisoners are free to send and receive letters as there are no restrictions on it.
  • But there has been some harsh realities of the system. According to the prisoners statistics for 2016, there were about 4.33 lakh prisoners who are in jail in which 68% of them are undertrial or yet to be found guilty. The number of unnatural death and suicide in prisons increased with 28% in the year 2016.



  • Infrastructure quality in the prisons was found to be inadequate.
  • Rampant overcrowding in the prisons leading to an unhealthy life.
  • Safety of women prisoners and young offenders were not ensured.
  • Continuous rise in harassment and torture in the cell.
  • There were deficiency in communication with prison administration, judicial authorities etc to address the violation of their rights and access to legal aid.
  • Sometimes minimum basic needs were not fulfilled i.e. clean drinking water, proper diet, ventilation etc.
  • Management of Personal abuse and psychological effect on the prisoner.


Suggestion and personal opinion:-

  • As we have mentioned above the reformative schemes provided by Tihar jail like participation in sports activities and cultural events, classes in English and Hindi, yoga, legal aid etc. These facilities are necessary for reformation but if they are not provided these facilities should be in function for human dignity.
  • They should be entitled to trading, occupation, and their own choices profession entitled under article 19(1) (g) of the Indian constitution.
  • In times of any disaster and epidemic they should mandatorily be released from prisons in order to protect them from any ailment and threat like we have seen in the current situation of corona virus pandemic where most of the prisoners were infected inside the jail.
  • Awareness about consequences of committing crime and changing psychological behavior towards the society in very important.
  • As we are talking about the equality enshrined in article 14, quantity and quality and cleanliness in food should be served to the prisoners.
  • Prisoners who have committed crime due to their diseased mind have always seen with the hatred. Most of the time jail authority did not take their role responsibly. So this is the point which should be corrected. Proper infrastructure facility should be given to them whether or women like Hygienic and clean bathrooms, sanitation etc. and in the case of women construction of separate bathroom should be taken care.
  • Under trial prisoners should not be detained unnecessarily they should be confined to separate institution if possible and for women’s separate jails should be set up in every state.




Case laws:-

Sunil Batra v Delhi administration

In this case the court gave the very obvious decision that whether prisoners are entitled to fundamental rights while in custody. In this regard the court said “are prisoners are persons? Yes of course. The rights of prisoners in recognized in the international agreement on prisoners ‘rights to which our India nation had signed. The hands off doctrine is rejected by the court and it has been announced that fundamental rights do not vanish the person as these rights can also enter the prisons. The above question invoke the article 14 of the Indian constitution which is right to equality.

Rama Murthy v State of Karnataka

In this case the court identified nine issues and needing reforms. They are- Overcrowding, torture and ill treatment, neglect of health and hygiene, delay in trial, inadequate food and clothing, prison vices, deficiency in communication, streamlining of jail visits, management of open air prisons etc. The court expressed the views that these major problems need immediate attention.


There are number of implementation and court decisions which helps to protect the rights of the  prisoners in India but there is still a heavy amount of  more work which is in need to be done  in this direction. The judiciary performs an important role for the better regulation of this system and the judgment given by the court in some cases would help in correcting the existing problem in the current prison system.

Author: Raman Saxena,
Delhi metropolitan education affiliated to GGSIPU (2nd year)

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