NEW DELHI: Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a direction to the prison administration of all states and the Union Territories (UTs) to pay special attention to ensuring that "inmates inclined towards propagating the ideology of radicalization and those who have the propensity and potential to negatively influence other inmates are housed in separate enclosures".
Similarly, the MHA advised, the inmates who are in custody for offences related to "narcotics and smuggling of drugs also need to be lodged separately, and to the extent possible not allowed to mix with other inmates", again with the intention of keeping other inmates away from the influence of such unscrupulous individuals.
It is also suggested that the state prison authorities should also focus on organising "special de-radicalisation sessions" in all jails with the help of correctional and behavioral experts, on regular basis, as this can go a long way in bringing change in the mindset of misguided criminals.
The MHA's direction was circulated on January 9 through a written letter to the Additional Chief Secretaries and Principal Secretary (Home) of all states and UTs as well as the Director General and Inspector General Prisons of all states and UTs.
The MHA also directed them to take measures for effective prison management, asking them to adopt the Model Prison Manual 2016 and bring in prison reforms in accordance with the guidelines provided in the manual.
In terms of the guidance contained in the Model Prison Manual 2016, on the admission of a prisoner in the jail, the letter mentions, the prison administration has to ensure the separation of various categories of prisoners namely women, young offenders, under-trials, convicts, high-risk offenders and to lodge them in the jail separately with a view to ensuring the safety and security of inmates.
The letter clearly mentions that those states and UTs have not adopted the Model Prison Manual so far should expedite their move and take necessary steps for effective prison management and also filling up vacancies of Prison officers and staff in Jails.
Given the importance of Prisons and Correctional Institutions in the Criminal Justice System, the MHA said, it is the constant endeavour of the Government of India to share important guidelines with the states and UTs on varied aspects of prison administration in the form of advisories issued from time to time.
The Model Prison Manual 2016, forwarded to all states and UTs in May 2016, was also a step in this direction and was aimed at bringing uniformity in the basic principles governing the jails of the country. However, despite constant follow-up by the MHA, several states are yet to confirm the status of the adoption of the Model Prison Manual 2016 in their jurisdictions.
"The states and UTs who have not adopted the Model Prison Manual so far are again requested to expedite the same and take necessary steps for adopting it and bringing in the prison reforms in accordance with the guidelines provided in the Manual," the letter said. Citing the annual publication of the latest "Prison Statistics India, 2021" prison statistics collated by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the MHA noted that as many as 1,102 Jails of the country are equipped with video conferencing facilities.
The MHA mentions in the letter that the Department of Justice has informed that under the eCourts Mission Mode Project, video conferencing facility between Courts and Jails has been enabled in 3,240 Court complexes.
Taking note of these, the MHA requested the state prison authorities "to make special efforts for making use of the video conferencing facility in all district level jails and the courts". "Wherever such a facility is not available, suitable arrangements may be provided by the state authorities by taking up the matter with the officers of the concerned courts on an urgent basis," said the MHA in the letter.
To further augment the video conferencing facilities in the jails, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it is providing grants in aid to all states and UTs under the 'Modernisation of Prisons' project, and requested the states and UTs to make use of the grant in aid being provided to them and strengthen the video conferencing facility in the jails wherever required.
It is also noted from the NCRB publication 'Prison Statistics India 2021' that there is a national average of approximately 28 per cent of posts of Jail staff lying vacant in various states and UTs as on December 31, 2021.
In some states, about 40 to 50 per cent of posts of Jail staff are lying vacant, which does not augur well for the efficient management of prisons and correctional facilities in the country. It is further noted that various posts of Medical Officers, Psychologists and Psychiatrists are also lying vacant in the jails of many states and UTs, mentions the MHA letter.
Through the letter, the MHA also requested the state and UT authorities to "launch special recruitment drives to fill up the vacancies of all categories of Jail staff".
It mentioned that "sensitive institutions like prisons and correctional services should not be understaffed as this is not only a potential security risk but also deprives the prison inmates of the correctional services to be provided to them for weaning them away from the path of crime and making them dutiful citizens of the country".