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Research Studies

Jail adalats

CHRI decided to conduct a one year study of Jail adalats in ten select states, namely: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. A multi-modal approach was adopted to obtain data and maximise the accuracy of this research study. Data for the study was procured through RTI applications and interviews with prison officers and judicial officers. In addition, documents produced by various state agencies were thoroughly examined to obtain information pertaining to disposal of cases of under-trial prisoners.

Jail adalats are essentially criminal courts held within the prisons for the speedy disposal of cases. The study was conducted to examine the process of jail adalats in different states and how they deal with cases where the under-trial prisoners charged for petty offences are ready to plead guilty. One of the primary aims of the study was to identify good practices of holding jail adalats and examine whether these could be adopted in other states. This was based on the assumption that even though jail adalats are not the best way to reduce the number of under-trial prisoners, they can be used in the interim period while broader systemic criminal justice reforms are underway. However, having conducted the study, these assumptions have been reconsidered.

While these adalats are short on procedure - usually comprising only a magistrate and the accused, there is no statutory provision governing the conduct of these adalats. CHRI believes that due to the unconstitutional nature and violation of fair trial guarantees, the practice of jail adalats should be discontinued and completely done away with. If the practice of jail adalats is continued, certain minimum safeguards should be implemented.

Many argue that these adalats are good because they allow "petty offenders" to come out of prison after pleading guilty. This not only solves problems of overcrowding but also provides respite to those who are willing to admit guilt to petty crimes. However, others argue that 'it is eventually the poor who may come forward to making confessions and suffer the conviction'. The inducement of an early release is enough for a poor person to falsely plead guilty. The system should expedite the process of trying these people without pressuring them to admit guilt in order to come out of prisons.

The report seeks to encourage a debate on the use of short-cut mechanisms in the criminal justice system like the jail adalats. It brings to the fore the problems that these hastily thought out "solutions" give rise to. The target audience for this report includes the prison and judicial officers who arrange and hold these adalats; the political leaders who may be induced into thinking that these adalats should be given statutory recognition without any further debate; other state agencies like the human rights commissions which recommend their use and the civil society.

Sub-jails

Sub-jails are a category of prisons found at the block level in each state. Out of a total number of 1336 prisons in India, 852 are sub-jails. CHRI studied the sub-jails in Maharashtra to assess their condition and the rights of those who are housed in them.

Sub-jails are small prisons and their capacity to hold prisoners is very limited. There is little information available in the public domain about sub-jails and their functioning. Perhaps because they house less number of prisoners and that too for a short period as compared to the central and the district jails, neither the media nor the civil society has paid adequate attention to these institutions.

The reason for choosing Maharashtra was not only that it has the highest number of sub-jails in the country (172), but also that the sub-jails in the state are not administered by the prison department. This study endeavours to shed light on the sub-jails in Maharashtra by focusing on:

  • the rules and regulations applicable to their functioning;
  • the kind of statistics that are available on these jails;
  • the administration of the sub-jails in the state;
  • the functioning of the oversight mechanisms like the Prison Visiting system; and
  • the general condition in these jails including food, clothing, general amenities, sanitation, hygiene, medical facilities, and security arrangement

The study could find no discernable reason - except lack of political will - for keeping the management of sub-jails in the hands of revenue officials. These officers are over-worked and not trained in correctional work. They are unaware of prisoners' rights, as enunciated by the judiciary and prescribed by the prison manual. They are not trained to collect and maintain information relating to sub-jails in the prescribed format, which is why the national statistics do not reflect accurate picture of these jails (Only 114 sub-jails are functioning in the state as against 172 mentioned in the National Crime Records Bureau statistics). In the absence of accurate and adequate information, the government is unable to channel resources into these sub-jails as a matter of priority. This report strongly recommends that the sub-jails should be under the direct control of the prison department.

In 2006, there were 49,534 inmates in all the sub-jails in India as against the prescribed capacity of 41,187. The other 484 prisons held 323,737 prisoners.

Community Participation in Prisons

CHRI, together with Prayas, undertook a National Scoping Study of NGOs and community based organizations working for prison reform across 14 states in India. The study highlighted examples of community intervention in prisons ranging from grass roots level to policy framing level.

We believe that identifying the organisations key to engendering change in prisons and collecting information on their skills and capacities, will not only catalyse change and collaborative action but more importantly create momentum needed to address the ailing criminal justice system in India.

Community participation in prisons assists in meeting basic standards applicable to the prisoner's welfare. It also serves as an important bridge between the community and prison. In resource-poor countries where prison administration and reform do not command the level of necessary resources, civil society involvement can be essential in bringing additional administrative resources. Even where resources are available, they are not adequately allocated to prison management. Civil society involvement can help to mobilize public opinion in favor of reform. However, where access is made difficult, either by arbitrary or discretionary decision making processes or a lack of provision for community participation in prison rules, the potential impact is diluted.

The book 'Community Participation in Prisons - A Civil Society Perspective' is an effort to initiate and achieve sustained systemic prison reforms. This compendium attempts to document the resource pool of NGOs, faith based groups, and associations like rotary but it does not include individuals or state authorities or bodies created by the state such as human rights commissions or legal aid bodies. It accounts the institutions' specific concerns, strategies, capacity building requirements, and achievements on prison reform and prisoners' rights. The compendium describes the factors that have influenced their evolution, patterns of growth, problems and constraints as well as gaps, challenges and opportunities.

Report on Prison Conditions in Karnataka

CHRI's prison reforms programme commenced its work in Karnataka in August 2007 on the basis of an invitation from the then Additional Director General of Prisons, Mr. S.T. Ramesh. He gave us permission to access prisons and records and assured us the department's full cooperation. CHRI's primary focus was to explore the Prison Visting System (PVS), however due to the department's cooperation we were able to conduct a relatively extensive study on the condition of prisons covering all aspects of prison life. The team studied the conditions of prisons across the state and brought those issues which required urgent attention to the prison department's notice.

In the context of the study, CHRI prison reforms team visited several prisons in different parts of Karnataka. The objective was to ensure implementation of the standards set in the prison manuals, judgments, and other legislations. The procedure was to identify one issue at a time on priority basis, report it to the ADG of Prisons, and suggest several measures to improve the situation. We made a series of submissions to the Prisons Department which they acted upon promptly by issuing circulars.

The ADG of Prisons also appointed a committee to inspect the prisons without prior intimation after lock-up. This committee would carry out surprise inspections and visit any prison at any time. Incase of shortcomings or limitations, the prison authorities were warned of disciplinary action against the higher authorities as well as the concerned lower staff of the prison.

We also studied the condition of sub-jails under the revenue department in the state and gave recommendations to the prisons department. A letter was addressed to the district collectors suggesting measures to improve condition of revenue prisons.

Inadequacies related to legal aid and lack of access to judiciary by prisoners were brought to the notice of the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA).

CHRI in collaboration with the Karnataka Prisons Department and Regional Institute of Correctional Administration (RICA), Vellore organized a workshop for the newly recruited prison officers on 29 March 2008. We also assisted the Prisons Department in organizing a consultation on juveniles which came out with a policy frame on juveniles in prisons. The prison department issued circulars and suggested measures pertaining to juveniles in prisons. Our recommendations were taken in the right spirit, and prompt action was taken to ensure the standards were being implemented.

 

 
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Joint Letter to HRC Members on Sri Lanka

Statement on Human Rights Defenders

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules)

Re Inhuman conditions in prison SC order 24.4.15

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 and the FCR Rules - Points for consideration

Hear the Message, Don't Shoot the Messenger - Curbing Voices of Dissent in the Name of Regulation

CHRI CONCERNED OVER ALLEGATIONS OF POLICE VIOLENCE & ARBITRARY ACTION DURING ANTI GOVERNMENT RALLY

Breaking the silence"- CHRI's Press note on Sri Lanka's RTI

CHRI's critique of Tanzania's ATI Bill 2015

Tanzania's ATI Act 2015 (Bill)

CHRI celebrates the release and repatriation of Khan Zaman

Incidence of rape-torture-death in Prisons

Acquittal of Accused Pac Personnel in the 1987 Hashimpura Killings

Call for Proposals - Crime Victimisation Survey

Call for Quotations Website Maintenance

POLICE REFORM WORKING GROUP (PWRG) STATEMENT ON CABINET SECRETARY

Call for implementation of UNSC resolution on humanitarian access for Syrians

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JointLetter BRICS Summit Fortaleza

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VAW statement - item 3 - 11 June 2014

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Upcoming UPR review for Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho Granada and Guyana

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Humanrights Initiative

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