As long back as 1894, the government accepted by way of Section 59(25) in the Prison Act that a system of visitors both from civil society and government in prisons would be of value to the management and monitoring of prisons. Thus, making it mandatory to have a prison visiting system at place. It involves visitors to inspect the prison periodically and report to the government.
Every state in India has its own rule book for prisons. These rules require all the jails to have official and non-official visitors. Official visitors are district officials, judicial members, member of legislative assemblies and often State Human Rights Commissions. Non-Official visitors are reputed local people. Together, they form a Board of Visitors which is required to inspect prisons, meet and discuss solutions to the problems related to administration of prison and welfare of prisoners. This balances the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ and strives to keep the monitoring non-partisan. CHRI believes it is a one-point solution to preventing violations of rights, improving conditions and strengthening complaints redressal.
However, the mechanism has since then become mostly defunct because of lack of intent and transparency despite constant recognition by Indian courts. We challenge the status quo to revive the system by developing evidence-led studies and promote the implementation of statutory standards. We work closely with the State Human Rights Commissions and Prison Departments to build the confidence, knowledge and expertise of visitors by way of regular trainings. We work with other civil society groups to raise awareness about the mechanism and the negative impact of its disuse.