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Madras High Court Bats For Better Prison Culture, Orders Preparation Of Prisoners’ Rights Handbook

Upasana Sajeev
5 Jan 2023 3:03 PM GMT
Madras High Court Bats For Better Prison Culture, Orders Preparation Of Prisoners’ Rights Handbook

Noticing shortcomings in the manner in which prison administration is carried out at present, the Madras High Court has issued a slew of directions to the State and the Prison Department for creating a better prison environment and prison culture.

The Madurai bench of Justice R Mahadevan and Justice Sathya Narayana Prasad directed the respondent authorities to also prepare a “Prisoners’ Rights Handbook” highlighting the rights of the prisoners and their grievance mechanisms. A copy of this Handbook is to be given to each prisoner upon their admission.

To prepare a ‘Prisoners' Rights Handbook’ with information on their rights, applicable laws and regulations, mechanism for raising grievances/complaints with the board of visitors and other concerned authorities, expected behaviour from prisoners and disciplinary action for violations and to provide each prisoner with a copy of the same upon admission to the prisons. The same shall also be made available online on the website of the prison department.

The court made the directions on a petition filed by Peoples’ Watch, a Human Rights Organisation based in Madurai seeking directions to the respondents to appoint trained and skilled non-official visitors to the Board of Visitors to Jails as per Rule 507 of the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983 for visiting each of the Central Jails and Sub Jails to address the grievance of the prisoners.

The court further directed the constitution of a committee to ensure the periodic appointment of non-official visitors to all prisons/jails within the State promptly upon the expiry of the tenure of the non-official visitor. The court also directed for constitution of board of visitors in all prisons who would periodically review and advise the prison authorities on aspects such as training, correctional work etc. The minutes of meeting of this board of visitors along with their suggestions was to be uploaded in the official websites.

The Inspector General of Prisons was directed to prepare an annual report along with the remarks and suggestions of the visitors with corresponding actions taken by the department and publish the same in the website.

The court also directed the State to amend the Prison Act 1894 and the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules in accordance with the Model Prison Manual 2016 and the Nelson Mandela Rules.

The court further directed the respondents to take measures to reduce overcrowding of prisoners in the prisons and to make all facilities like medical equipment, drinking water, hygienic food available at the prison at all times. The court also asked the respondent to provide effective grievance redressal system by providing complaint boxes.

The court also noted that regular training and refresher courses have to be conducted for officials in order to create a better prison environment.

Regular training and refresher courses shall be conducted in collaboration with the Academy of Prisons and Correctional Administration for officials and prison staff, who directly interact with the inmates in order to create a sensitive and dignified prison environment.

The court also noted that to ensure proper functioning of visitorial system, a yearly conference has to be conducted under the aegis of the State Human Rights Commission to review prison administration and recommend changes accordingly.

To ensure the effective functioning of visitorial system in reforming the prisons, the state government shall organize a yearly conference under the aegis of the State Human Rights Commission with the official and non-official visitors of the board of visitors across the state, officials concerned with prison administration and correctional services to consider the status of prison administration, deliberate on the report of the board of visitors and recommend changes in the prison administration.

The court stressed that improving the culture among inmates and their environment through administrative reforms is necessary to achieve the reformation of inmates and bring about a change in their behaviour ultimately leading to an effective incarceration system with due regard for prisoner's rights.

Case Title: People’s Watch v. The Home Secretary, Home Department (Prison) and another

Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 7

Case No: Writ Petition (MD) No. 15321 of 2017

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