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Tuesday, September 11, 2001

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Better days ahead behind bars at Tihar

By Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 10. The process of formulation of a Model Jail Manual for bringing about uniformity in treatment of prisoners has been initiated by the Union Home Ministry with the appointment of the All-India Prison Manual Committee comprising six working groups to review all areas related to prison reforms.

According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), ``the committee would review laws, rules and regulations governing management of prisoners, treatment of prisoners, and make recommendations for devising good practices and procedures on the basis of comparative analyses of the provisions of the States Prison Manuals by identifying gaps in their provisions for managing and administering prisons''.

It would also examine various aspects relating to treatment of prisoners with special reference to their basic minimum needs compatible with the dignity of human life in the light of recommendations made by the All-India Committee on Jail Reforms (1980-83), Supreme Court judgments, and various international instruments to which India is a party.

With a view to developing prisons as ``correctional institutions'', the panel would look into procedures regarding internal management of prisons with a view to upholding the rights of prisoners and development of prison staff in terms of custody, security, institutional discipline, institutional programmes, specialised treatment of women, adolescents and mentally sick prisoners, staff recruitment and training.

The committee would scrutinise and analyse the implications of the proposed Prison Management Bill being finalised by the Home Ministry. The committee's brief also incorporates finalising the draft of a Model Prison Manual by evolving a national consensus on relevant issues relating to prison reforms.

The biggest beneficiary of the exercise is expected to be the Capital's high-security Tihar Central Jail which has already taken the lead in prison reforms. The largest prison complex in South-East Asia, Tihar Jail houses over 10,000 inmates. The Model Jail Manual, say Tihar officials, will help them carry out the reforms in a more systematic manner.

Incidentally, a note issued by BPRD to jail officials had quoted the Supreme Court as specifically directing the Government "to consider the formulation of a Model Prison Manual to bring about uniformity in treatment of prisoners''.

The committee, at its first meeting here on July 24, had decided to evolve a national consensus on various issues to be covered in the Model Prison Manual by appointing working groups to examine existing rules and regulations operative in various State prisons and suggest such provisions as are found necessary in line with the current criminological and penological thinking.

The committee had approved the composition of six working groups, each with a given agenda. The groups would deal with ``Organisational Structure'', ``Living Conditions of Prisoners'', ``Undertrials, Detenus and High-Security Prisoners'', ``Remittances of Sentences, Open Institutions and Young Offendors'', ``Prison Discipline, Women Prisoners and Visitors'' and, finally, ``Correctional Programmes''.

The 25-odd officials on these working groups would participate in various workshops and undertake detailed studies before submitting their reports.

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