Prison Reforms – Part 2

Prison Reforms – Part 2

The Issues of Indian Prisons:


  • According to the Prison Statistics India report of the National Crime Records Bureau, three out of four prisoners in Indian jails are undertrials.
  • Among the undertrials, about 20% were Muslims, while about 73% were Dalits, tribals or OBCs.
  • Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) were found to have the highest ratio of undertrials in jails at 91%, followed by Bihar and Punjab at 85%, and Odisha at 83%.
  • About 27% of all undertrials were found to be illiterate, and 41% had dropped out before Class X.


  • In India prison occupancy on average increased from 115% to 133% in the last two years.
  • In 2020, during COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of India issued directives to set up committees in each state to decongest prisons.
  • However, within a year, most had only been released temporarily and were called back to prison.
  • Chhattisgarh (222.5%), Madhya Pradesh (208%), and Uttar Pradesh (168%) are among the most overburdened.


  • India’s prisons are understaffed by at least 33% with the highest vacancies found at the officer and correctional staff levels.
  • The Model Prison Manual, 2016, lays down that there shall be at least one medical officer for every 300 prisoners.
  • It has suggested one correctional officer for every 200 prisoners and one psychologist for every 500.
  • However almost all the prisons are not able to reach this target.

The Committees for Prison Reforms

Justice Mulla Committee 1983:

  • All India cadre for prison staff and Bringing prison under the concurrent list
  • Government should form a National Policy on Prisons
  • Government to use alternatives to imprisonment such as community service, etc.

Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer committee on women prisoners 1987:

  • Separate institutions with women employees alone for women offenders.
  • Necessary provisions to restore the dignity of women even if convicted.

Justice Amaitava Roy panel on prison reforms 2018:

For overcrowding

  • Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal with petty offences.
  • Lawyers – prisoners’ ratio: there should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners.

For Understaffing

  • The Supreme Court should pass directions to start the recruitment process against vacancies
  • There should be use of videoconferencing for trial.

For Prisoners

  • Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.
  • Alternative punishments should be explored.