Essay on “Prison Reforms” for CSS, PMS, Judiciary Examinations

This is an essay on “Prison Reforms” for CSS, PMS, and Judiciary Examinations. Prison Reforms are the most valuable reforms in our society. So here is the complete essay on “Prison Reforms” and some recommendations to achieve them.

Essay on “Prison Reforms”

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Hate the Crime and not the Criminal”.

Prison reform is the attempt to improve conditions inside prisons, aiming at a more effective judicial system. The goal of prison is to “repair” the deficiencies in the individual and return them as productive members of society. The second goal here is simply to keep criminals away from potential victims, thus reducing the number of crimes they can commit.

All men are born equal and are endowed by their creator with some basic rights. These rights are mainly the right to life and liberty, but if any person doesn’t comply with the ethics of the society then that person is deprived of these rights with proper punishment. Many experts believe that the main objective of prisons is to bring the offenders back to the mainstream of society. Various workshops had been organized by the State Government in collaboration with NGOs to bring reforms to the current prison systems.

Many reforms can be made in jail administration, which are mainly: A Class prisoners can meet their own expenditure by depositing a certain amount fixed by the Government for enjoying special services like tea, newspapers, pillow, and 3 times non-vegetarian food in a week and if they are vegetarian they will be served ghee, dhal, and buttermilk. Many inmates usually complain about inadequate quality and quantity of food, which is required to be improved. The food is required to be prepared in better hygienic conditions.

Rehabilitation of inmates will be meaningful only if they are employed after release and for that purpose educational facilities should be introduced or upgraded. In many jails, inmates including hardcore criminals and women had joined various courses offered by IGNOU and their respective State Universities. Courses mainly offered by then are BA, MA, MBA & other post-graduation courses.

The inmates can also join the classes of 10th and +2 for basic guidance. In many jails with a view of imparting vocational training, a fully-fledged computer training center has been established. The inmates are also provided training in carpentry and fabric painting. Many jails have also initiated programs for women empowerment by training them in weaving, making toys, stitching, and making embroidery items. Wage earning and gratuity schemes and incentives are also used to reduce the psychological burden on the convicts.

Recently, the Government of  Himachal Pradesh had lifted the ban on wearing Gandhi’s cap in jails. Various seminars are organized by jail authorities to enlighten the prisoners on their legal rights, health and sanitation problems, HIV/AIDS and issues of mental health, juveniles, minorities, and steps to reduce the violence in prisons.

The open prison system has come as a very modern and effective alternative to the system of closed imprisonment. The establishment of open prisons on a large scale as a substitute for the closed prisons, the latter being reserved for hardcore criminals shall be one of the greatest prison reforms in the penal system.

Why Prison Reforms Needed?

The state of our prisons is a fair measure of the state of our society. The Prison Reform Trust works to ensure they are just, humane and effective. Prisons are the most shaming of all our public
institutions. The United Kingdom has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe at 145 per 100,000 of the population in conditions that are frequently an affront to civilized values, and at great cost to the taxpayer. Yet the vast majority of our prisoners do not present a serious threat to life or limb. Their crimes are such that they can be more humanely, economically, and effectively dealt with in the community.

At first sight, our enthusiasm for imprisonment is surprising. Prison has· a poor track record. It is hard to show any relationship between a society’s rate of incarceration and its rate of crime. Prison keeps some offenders off the streets, but it seems neither to deter nor reform. Judged simply on its effectiveness, the prison has been repeatedly condemned as a blunt instrument.

We believe that:

  • Prison should be reserved for those whose offending is so serious that they cannot serve their sentence in the community.
  • Prisoners and their families should be treated with humanity and respect and have access to clear information and the opportunity to represent themselves and have their views taken into account.
  • The Prison Service should provide constructive regimes in decent, safe conditions that ensure the well-being of prisoners and prepare them for resettlement in the community.
  • The public, parliament, and those responsible for incarcerating offenders should be fully informed about the state and effectiveness of our criminal justice system.
  • As the most severe punishment in this country, imprisonment should remain the ultimate responsibility of the state, in order to safeguard prisoners’ human rights. A prison, penitentiary, or correctional facility is a place in which individuals are physically confined or interned and usually deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Prisons are conventionally institutions, which form part of the criminal justice system of a country, such that imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime.
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It appears that the accommodation provided in jails generally does not suit the climatic condition of our country. In winter prison barracks and cells are extremely cold and in summer they are sizzling with heat. It is, therefore, recommended that new jails in Pakistan should be constructed so that all jail inmates get adequate accommodation.

Such jails should be constructed in the outskirts and be designed in a manner to suit the environmental and climatic conditions. It may also be ensured that in old as well as in new prisons, clean hygienic conditions are provided including a flush system in toilets with proper sewerage facilities. Such jails should also have proper facilities of electric fans, heaters, water coolers, etc.

It is also recommended that prisoners may be allowed to keep a radio (with headphones), wristwatch, books, paper, and pen/pencil with them, without having to obtain permission. These
facilities have been provided by the Government of KPK where prisoners are also allowed to keep the money for the purchase of these items from Utility Stores, established on jail premises.

It is further recommended that the facilities of outdoor games like football, basketball and. in-door games should be provided.

It is also recommended that all convicts of Class “C” may be allowed to wear their own clothes instead of jail uniform. The Government of KPK has already 911owed this concession to the jail inmates of Class C. The same may be followed by other provinces.

The prisoner’s given death sentence is kept in special death cells, constructed for the purpose. Normally these are very small rooms measuring 9′ X 12′ attached with WC in a corner,
rounded by a wall of 3′ height. It has been observed that 3 to 6 prisoners are kept in one death cell. The prisoners in the death cell are entitled to one hour walk, 30 minutes in the morning and 30
minutes in the evening, while handcuffed.

It is recommended that the duration of walk time may be extended from half an hour to one hour, each in the morning and evening, and the rule pertaining to the use of handcuffs during the walk may be applied only in respect of terrorists and/or dangerous criminals. It is further recommended that the prisoners may be kept in a death cell according to the capacity of the cell.

The accused persons, on their arrest, are kept in detention at the police lockups. In the court premises, they are kept.in judicial lockups. Such lockups are few in number and are generally in dilapidated condition. They lack basic facilities such as fans, benches, toilets, etc. It is, therefore, recommended that an adequate number of police/judicial lockups may be constructed and the conditions of existing lockups are improved, providing therein the requisite facilities.

Pakistan Prison Rules clearly provide for the classification of prisoners on the basis of their involvement in civil matters or criminal offenses. They further requirements the segregation of female and juvenile convicts from the rest. It has generally been observed that due to overcrowding in all the prisons of the country, the rules relating to segregation are not fully observed. This practice is contrary to the Injunction of Islam and the laid down law/rules.

There are often reports of the escape of prisoners from jails. This happens due to the crumbling walls of S(me jails and the non-availability of adequate security equipment for” the purpose of detecting escapes. This problem becomes more acute when there are crises in jail premises. To forestall any eventuality of escape from jail premises, it is recommended that jail walls/structures should be strengthened and a proper security system should be installed in jail premises. Closed-circuit T.V.  equipment is installed in jail and the staff should be given appropriate gadgets for detecting escapes. Sucl1 staff must also be given appropriate training for the purpose.

One common problem experienced by the prisoners is, that for release on parole for a short period in case of death of a relative in the family, etc, permission is granted by the Government i.e. Home Secretary of the Province. Such permission is not given expeditiously with the result that the needy prisoner is unable to avail it. It is, therefore, recommended that such permission may be given by the Director, Reclamation and Probation, after due process, and the procedure for the purpose should be simplified.

With the passage of time, the number of prisoners, released on parole is declining. At present, there are only 225 such cases in Punjab, 7 in Sind, 5 in KPK, and 2 in Baluchistan. It is, therefore, suggested that the procedure for release should be simplified, so as to allow a greater number of prisoners to be released on parole, for working not just as domestic servants but also in industry, trade, and other commercial institutions. in the public and private sectors. The terms and conditions of work and the number of wages may be negotiated with the concerned industry/department.

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An appropriate amount of such wages should be paid to the working parolees. This will enable the Government to earn some revenue and the parolees to provide subsistence to his/their family members. This will make the prisoner, a productive member of society and facilitate him/her in rehabilitation.

The Establishment of open Jail is a new and innovative concept, meant to reform and rehabilitate the prisoners. This way the prisoners are enabled to get training and learn the skills. By working in such prisons, they also participate in the national development and increase in agricultural output.

With a view to check the abuse/misuse of authority by the jail superintendent, it is appropriate that an appellate authority is prescribed for the purpose of reviewing the orders of jail-appropriate gadgets for detecting escapes. Sucl1 staff must also be given appropriate training for the purpose.

One common problem experienced by the prisoners is, that for release on parole for a short period in case of death of a relative in the family, etc, permission is granted by the Government i.e. Home Secretary of the Province. Such permission is not given expeditiously with the result that the needy prisoner is unable to avail it. It is, therefore, recommended that such permission may be given by the Director, Reclamation and Probation, after due process, and the procedure for the purpose should be simplified.

With the passage of time, the number of prisoners, released on parole is declining. At present, there are only 225 such cases in Punjab, 7 in Sind, 5 in KPK, and 2 in Baluchistan. It is, therefore, suggested that the procedure for release should be simplified, so as to allow a greater number of prisoners to be released on parole, for working not just as domestic servants but also in industry, trade, and other commercial institutions in the public and private sectors. The terms and conditions of work and the number of wages may be negotiated with the concerned industry/department.

An appropriate amount of such wages should be paid to the working parolees. This will enable the Government to earn some revenue and the parolees to provide subsistence to his/their family members. This will make the prisoner, a productive member of society and facilitate him/her in rehabilitation.

The Establishment of open Jail is a new and innovative concept, meant to reform and rehabilitate the prisoners. This way the prisoners are enabled to get training and learn the skills. By working in such prisons, they also participate in the national development and increase in agricultural output.

With a view to check the abuse/misuse of authority by the jail superintendent, it is appropriate that an appellate authority is prescribed for the purpose of reviewing the orders of the jail superintendent. Such authority may be within the hierarchy of jail authorities. It is recommended that the prisoner should have a right of appeal against a major penalty to the inspector general, Prison whose order shall be final.

The present system of inspection is not effective and there is a need for strengthening the mechanism of jail inspection so as to ensure proper compliance with the rules and provision of proper accommodation, food, medical facilities, etc to jail inmates.

It is recommended by the Special Committee for Jail Reforms of the KPK Provincial Assembly that a food committee may be constituted from amongst the educated and well-behaved suitable prisoners to check the meal provided to the prisoners. The recommendations of the said Committee may be adopted by all the provinces.

Similarly, a Committee consisting of public representatives, retired government officials, members of the bar associations, journalists, members of the NGOs, and social workers may be constituted to visit and inspect jails and ensure compliance with the Jail Manual.

It was brought to the notice of the Commission that, most of the prisoners, both under-trial and convicted, were ignorant of their right of bail under the law. Such prisoners languish in prisons unnecessarily. There is a need for finding a solution to this problem. It is, therefore, recommended that a procedure should b.e devised for ensuring that the bail petitions of such prisoners are processed and forwarded to the concerned appellate/trial court.

This may be done by obliging the Superintendent of Jail to regularly prepare and forward the cases of- such prisoners to the appropriate court for the purpose of being released on bail. This will require an amendment to the Jail Manual.

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The Commission examined the problem of lack of transport for bringing prisoners to courts which is a cause of delay in the trial. At times, prisoners cannot be produced in the courts due also to lack of proper security arrangements for the purpose.

The Commission was also conscious of the increasing incidents of escapes of prisoners while being carried from one place to another. The transportation of under-trial prisoners involved in heinous crimes or terrorist activities is also a problem.

Such problems are, at times, complicated by the non-availability, in some cities, of judicial lock-up facilities. All such factors prevent the quick disposal of cases. After careful consideration of the pros and cons of the issue, the Commission came to the conclusion that one way of resolving the issue is to establish courts on or near jail premises.

Recommendations for Prison Reforms

1. The punishment of putting bar fetters should be abolished in all prisons.

2. The relevant prison law prescribing the punishment of whipping for jail offenses should be repealed so as to comply with the Abolition of Punishment of Whipping Act 1996.

3. With a view to check the abuse of discretionary powers of Superintendent, the prisoner should have a right of appeal against major penalty to Inspector-General, Prison.

4. Prisoners should be allowed to keep a radio (with headphones), wristwatch, books, paper, and pen/pencil. without having to obtain any permission.

5. All convicts of Class “C” should be allowed to wear their own clothes instead of jail uniform.

6. The duration of walk time for condemned prisoners should be extended from half an hour to one hour, each in the morning and evening, and the rule pertaining to the use of handcuffs. during such walk, may be applied only in respect of terrorists or dangerous criminals.

7. Arrangements should be made for the accommodation, food, and education of children, accompanying convict women, outside the jails.

8. Proper security systems should be ensured in jails. Closed-circuit T.V. equipment should be installed in jail and the staff is given appropriate gadgets for detecting escapes. Such staff must also be given appropriate training for the purpose.

9. The system of granting remission on account of acquiring education and higher qualifications should also be reviewed with a view to allowing remission on the basis of certificate/degree awarded. For higher degrees, the period of remission should be greater.

10. Arrangements should be made for the provision of legal aid to indigent prisoners and to facilitate prisoners in meeting their counsels.

11. New prisons should be constructed in the outskirts with proper facilities for prisoners. The conditions of police/judicial lockups should be improved and due facilities, such as fans, benches, and toilets should be provided therein.

12. The facilities for outdoor games like football. basketball and in-door games should be provided.

13. The number of prisoners in a death cell should be according to the capacity of the cell.

14. Arrangements should be made for the construction of separate prisons for women convicts and juveniles. Proper education and training should be provided to women prisoners and juvenile offenders.

15. In every jail, facilities should be made available for religious. general as well as vocational/technical education to prisoners.

16. Arrangements should be made for the proper utilization of Open Jail, Badin. Similarly, open jails should also be established in other places. To start with. at least one such facility should be immediately established in each province.

17. Sick industries in jail should be revived and the private sector encouraged to establish industrial units in jails.  The prisoners should be trained to work in such industries and paid adequate wages.

18. In each prison, a qualified medical officer. nursing staff and essential medicines should be provided. In case of serious illness, the prisoner should be referred to an appropriate hospital for tests/treatment. Periodic visits by consultants, specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc should also be arranged.

19. The medical officer should be provided residence on or near the jail premises so as to ensure his/her availability in emergent cases.

20. Proper treatment for drug addicts should be arranged 1n jail hospitals or outside, in public/private hospitals/clinics.

21. The system of jail inspection be strengthened so that the judges of high courts and subordinate courts regularly visit jail and give on-the-spot instructions regarding the cases of under-trial prisoners.

22. Proper facilities should be provided in meeting halls so as to facilitate prisoners in meeting their relatives/friends. Prisoners with good conduct may also be released on short parole to meet their families and help them in tasks such as cultivation/harvesting of crops, etc.

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