The closed nature of penal system makes it easier for any kind of abuse to go unnoticed and unattended. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to hold the functionaries of prison accountable for their actions. To this end, multiple oversight mechanisms have been instituted in India either by a legislation or regulation to ensure that the prison conditions are monitored regularly and the rights of prisoners are upheld notwithstanding the isolation of the place they are detained in.
Prison Visiting System and Undertrial Review Committees are two such mechanisms that call for regular inspections in prison by government stakeholders, civil society members and judicial officers. The mandate of Prison Visiting system has a wider ambit and requires the visitors to ensure that all rules and regulations are being carried out to their satisfaction. The Undertrial Review Mechanism centers on reviewing the cases of undertrials who have been in detention for longer than legally required. Both the mechanisms purport to bring the state of prisons and prisoners to the notice of government and higher judiciary. The aim is to curb the deficiencies before they accumulate or grow into unmanageable proportions.
Today, these monitoring mechanisms have become perfunctory and prisons are not being monitored in accordance with law. This has led to unhygienic conditions, high incidence of abuse and prolonged and unnecessary detention of undertrials.
We work towards retaining and reinforcing the institution of prison visitors and promoting the creation and regular functioning of review committees.