CHRI’s Prison Reforms Programme is almost two decades old and is focused on increasing the transparency of a traditionally closed system and holding stakeholders accountable. The programme aims to strengthen oversight mechanisms, improve prison conditions, reform prison management, enhance accountability and foster an attitude of cooperation between the various agencies of the criminal justice system in place of the prevailing indifference and discrimination. We seek to achieve our goals through research, legal analysis and advice, advocacy, capacity building and network building.
We have worked in India’s various states on prison related issues including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and West Bengal. Since 2009 Rajasthan and West Bengal have been our core target states. We are currently conducting empirical studies on conditions of all prisons in Haryana, Punjab and Karnataka on behalf of their State Legal Services Authorities.
Bringing systemic change is a continuous process and for that we constantly engage with functionaries of the criminal justice system at all levels. Our evidence-based periodic watch reports which evaluate data procured under Right to Information laws have built credibility for our work in the justice sector. We have worked to build capacities of the functionaries of the criminal justice system, especially judicial officers, prison officials, legal aid lawyers, members of prison oversight bodies, probation officers and paralegals. Such trainings and capacity building exercises are complemented with preparation of resource materials.We engage in strategic litigations in both the High Court and the Supreme Court highlighting prison related issues. We also engage in policy reforms at the national level with various stakeholders including the Bureau of Police Research and Development, National Human
Rights Commission and the National Legal Services Authority. As a well recognised research and advocacy specialist in prison related matters, we have been invited to be a part of policy discussions at the national fora. This includes Justice Verma Committee on the Nirbhaya case and issues of women's safety (2012), NHRC Committee on the Model Prison Act (2015), Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law & Justice (2016 & 2018), Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh on the Draft Punjab Prison Act (2016), Committee on Preparation of Manual on Juveniles (2016), BPR&D Committee on Preparation of Training Manual for Prison Officers (2017), BPR&D Advisory Committee on Correctional Administration (2018), NALSA Committee for Standard Operating Procedure on filing of Appeal by Convicts, SCLSC sub-committee on Website and Web Based Monitoring Portal, NHRC Committee on Draft Model Prisons and Correctional Services Bill (2018), etc.
The core areas of the prison reforms programme comprise Prison Conditions and Oversight, Preventing Unnecessary Pre-Trial Detention, Legal Aid for Persons in Custody, Foreign National Prisoners including asylum seekers and refugees and providing assistance to vulnerable categories of prisoners.