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August 27, 2023by canonsphere0

This blog is written by Shivanshu Shivam a 1st year law student at Chanakya National Law University, Patna.


The model law is a proposed piece of legislation aimed at modernizing, humanizing, and decolonizing the outdated Prisoners Act, of 1894, in India. The initiative was led by the home ministry, which directed the Bureau of Police Research and Development. In this Act, updated provisions from the Prisoners Act, of 1900, and the Transfer Act, of 1950, will be incorporated, and the new Act also shifts the focus from punishment to rehabilitation and reform for prisoners, so they can also leave their lives if they get released, and even if not, then also at least they could change their life. 

The model law serves as a guiding path for states and Union Territories (UTs) in India as the prisons fall under the jurisdiction of their respective states as the Prison is a State Subject under List  II of the Seventh Schedule in the constitution. The aim is to encourage states and UTs to align their own prison laws and regulations with the proposed reforms, promoting a more humane and modern approach to prison treatment and reintegration into society after serving their sentences. Overall, the model law aims to address shortcomings in existing legislation, promote uniformity in prison administration, and lay the foundation for a more progressive and effective prison system in India.

This Act is the development in the field of  prison system is the need of the current as we require to omit the colonial system which was too oppressive to the Indians  and we need to do this because the prisoners who is in jail is also part of the society and they should get the environment and a system which focus on them to rehabilitate them if they are not a habitual offender or accused of any rarest of rare crime.


The modern Indian prison system dates back to the concept of TB Macaulay in 1835. The Prisons Act of 1894 was the first legislation to govern the management and administration of prisons in India. It classified prisoners into three groups according to the nature of their crimes, such as “criminal prisoner”, “convicted criminal prisoner” and “civil prisoner. The Act had provisions for prison administration, including accommodation, food, clothing, bedding, segregation, discipline, and solitary confinement. Also, under this Act, even whipping for male prisoners upto 30 stripes was allowed, and the said provision had no relation to addressing reformation or rehabilitation of the prisoners, which was its biggest drawback and clearly gives an impression of colonialism. Therefore, the Prisoners Act of 1900 was introduced to consolidate existing prison laws and simplify them intelligibly. It covered prisoners within presidency towns and outside and allowed for the removal of prisoners under certain conditions. Then, along with this, other legislation was also passed, like the Transfer of Prisoners Act of 1950, which provided for the transfer of prisoners between states. And nowadays, each state has its own jail manual to govern the administration and management of its prisons, as the prison is now a state subject.

The previous legislation was more focused on punishing the prisoners and not on  making significant change in their life, at that time the prisoners were basically treated as the free laborers of the Britishers and they exploited them instead of making them a law abiding citizens.


The object of the Act is to modernize the prisoners act and decolonize it, as the jail staff even today act according to colonial times, and they feel that prisoners are there for punishment, but they have to understand that the purpose behind putting the prisoners behind bars is to rehabilitate them and change their lives by making them  different people so they can contribute to society or at least live their lives in a civilized manner. Also, nowadays various things are coming into the scene where we can see that the criminals are operating from the jails only so these things also need to be stopped and this act has provisions regarding these things. Therefore, the reformation or rehabilitation of the prisoners through correctional administration programmes, the sensation of the jail correctional staff, making the environment of the jail secure so no illegal activity happens there, and making the jails hygienic and clean so the prisoners can at least have the basic rights of being  human beings.

The Act aims to update and decolonize the current prison system, which continues to be influenced by colonial practices. It tries to change the attitude of the correctional staff, who only see prisoners as things to punish. This legislation highlights the necessity of understanding that imprisonment serves the purpose of rehabilitating offenders and transforming their lives with vocational training and skill development programmes so they can either return to society as good individuals or at least be able to live in a civilized manner.

The legislation places a significant emphasis on preventing criminal activity that is organized inside jails. It includes provisions to effectively counter such activities and recognizes the increasing pattern of criminals working from prison. The act places a significant priority on the establishment of programmes for correctional administration, with one of its main objectives being the reform and rehabilitation of convicts. These programmes are designed to give prisoners the knowledge, abilities, and assistance they need to manage their behaviour, pursue rehabilitation, and follow the law after they leave prison.

The legislation also addresses the problem of how prisoners are treated, emphasizing the need for secure detention settings free of criminal activity. It highlights how crucial it is to protect prisoners’ fundamental rights, such as their access to sanitary facilities. The statute improves prisoners’ dignity and recognizes their basic human rights by making jails a place to start a new life.

Therefore, the legislation aims to reform the jail system by putting more emphasis on rehabilitation than punishment. It seeks to alter the mentality of jail officials, put in place efficient correctional programmes, stop criminal activity inside prisons, and enhance the overall circumstances for prisoners. By doing this, it hopes to develop a jail system that is fairer and more humane and encourages the rehabilitation and reintegration of criminals into the community.


The Act’s provisions cover many important topics meant to improve prison management and administration. An important area is the punishment of both prisoners and jail staff for the use of objects that are banned within jails, such as cell phones. The legislation aims to protect security and prevent criminal activity or unlawful communication inside the prison system by punishing such acts.

The legislation also has provisions related to the importance of security and prisoner separation. This promotes a safer environment for both convicts and staff by ensuring that prisoners are housed in institutions that are appropriate for their specific requirements and dangers. Prison officials can detect potential risks or shortcomings and take action to tackle them by performing detailed security assessments. Maintaining convicts separate based on factors like conduct, connections, and criminal histories may avoid conflicts and violence among prisoners.

Also, legislation has provisions to put individual sentence planning into practice. Each prisoner’s individual requirements, hazards, and potential for rehabilitation are taken into account while creating programmes that are specifically suited for them. The possibility of successful reintegration into society after release is increased by sentence planning that takes into account the particular needs and circumstances of each prisoner. To address the underlying causes of criminal conduct, it may involve educational programmes, career counseling, training, and other types of assistance.

The statute also has provisions for the use of technology for managing prisons. Through the use of technology, such as video conferencing, prisons can enhance efficiency, simplify logistical issues, and speed legal processes. As remote court appearances can be recorded and monitored, this can also help create a jail system that is more open and responsible.

The Model Act includes provisions for the special requirements and security worries of transgender and female prisoners. To ensure their safety and well-being in the jail setting, it proposes a separate  place to stay for these people. The statute recognizes the significance of protecting their rights and maintaining their dignity by providing gender-specific facilities and services.

The legislation proposes establishing a grievance redressal mechanism to handle complaints and concerns voiced by prisoners. This approach enables prisoners to express their issues and look for a solution, promoting fairness and justice inside the penal system. It also makes sure that they have a way to voice complaints, offer suggestions, and have access to dispute resolution procedures.

The legislation also proposed the establishment of a prison development board, which may oversee, direct, and encourage prison improvements. This board can bring together specialists, decision-makers, and stakeholders to assess the efficacy of current procedures, offer suggestions for enhancements, and promote positive changes in prison administration.

The focus of the legislation is on changing attitudes about convicts, which is another essential component. The act aims to promote a supportive atmosphere that aids offenders’ reformation by encouraging a shift in society’s opinions of prisoners and a more sympathetic and rehabilitative approach. Encouraging effective reintegration involves promoting educational and employment possibilities, providing mental health support, and supporting family and community involvement.

The legislation also ensures that convicts have access to legal assistance and representation by recognizing the value of legal aid for prisoners. This clause protects prisoners’ rights and aids in addressing any disparities in access to justice. In addition, it encourages good behaviour by providing options like parole, furloughs, and early releases, which can work as incentives for prisoners to behave well and actively participate in their rehabilitation.


The 1894 Prisons Act, which classified prisoners into criminal, convicted, and civil categories, was the first piece of Indian law to regulate and operate prisons. It included supplies for lodging, clothes, food, and discipline. However, because it views every prisoner as someone who deserves torture and punishment, it reflects colonialism and a lack of reformation and rehabilitation. It contains all the orthodox beliefs about the prisoner and also does not contain provisions that are completely compatible with modern times.

But the Prisoners Act, of 2023, includes an extensive set of provisions that are intended to improve prison administration. The legislation aims to provide a more efficient, just, and compassionate prison system by resolving security issues, fostering openness, protecting prisoners’ welfare, and encouraging rehabilitation. In order to enhance the general operation of prisons while putting inmates’ rights and welfare first, it acknowledges the need for customized methods, gender-specific concerns, and the use of technology.


The Prisoners Act, of 2023, is to address a number of urgent issues within the Indian prison system, including overcrowding, undertrial detention, custodial torture, staff shortages, infrastructure deficiencies, hygiene issues, problems faced by female prisoners, insufficient legal aid, and the prison administration’s colonial mentality. The capacity of jails to provide for basic requirements like housing, food, and medical treatment is hampered by overcrowding, which also jeopardizes prisoners’ fundamental rights. 77% of all prisoners continue to wait for trial, which exposes them to criminal influences in the prison setting.

Considering cruel treatment by law enforcement personnel and an average of five deaths per day in judicial custody between 2010 and 2020, incarceration-related torture and deaths continue to be a serious issue in Indian jails. Prisons struggle with staffing issues, with a 33% understaffing rate, especially for officers and other correctional staff. The construction of prison infrastructure is hampered by a lack of facilities, such as suitable places to sleep, sanitary bathroom facilities, and health clinics, as well as insufficient financial support.

Jaundice and hepatitis are prevalent diseases caused mainly by the infamously bad hygiene conditions in Indian jails. Due to a shortage of female personnel, insufficient cleanliness, and the possibility of custodial sexual assault, women inmates confront unique difficulties. Because there is not enough legal assistance available, many people cannot afford legal counsel, which leads to very long prison sentences.

The Prisoners Act of 2023 thus tackles the pressing need to address overcrowding, undertrial imprisonment, custodial abuses, personnel shortages, infrastructural flaws, cleanliness problems, challenges encountered by women inmates, inadequate legal assistance, and system mindset. The Act aims to advance a more just and compassionate jail system in India by addressing these issues.


The act that the Home Ministry has adopted is perfect as per modern requirements, but since the prison is a state matter, the centre can only recommend that the states implement the provisions of this legislation or make changes based on this, The implementation of this Act, is a major limitation of the act as it is expected that it doesn’t just stay on paper.

Also, it is expected that this legislation creates fuss in society as it can happen that some prisoners pretend to become good people and start creating problems for society so a sharp view of each person before releasing anyone and test after rehabilitation should be considered and also the psychological reformation should be especially focused on with other majors. 

This act should also have the provisions which should promote the interaction of the prisoners with the people who have a significant effect on the lives of the many so they can learn from them and can also dream to be like them after the release and also bringing back the belief of them in the law is very much important.


The Prisoners Act, of 2023, is an important piece of legislation that aims to modernize and decolonize Indian jail systems in order to build a system that is more compassionate, just, and rehabilitative. The legislation intends to respect prisoners’ rights, hasten justice, stop abuses committed while in custody, increase staff-to-prisoner ratios, improve infrastructure, and safeguard the welfare of vulnerable populations. The legislation intends to establish a prison system that emphasizes rehabilitation, reformation, and effective reintegration of inmates into society by enacting extensive changes.

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