Public accountability is one of the essential ingredients of transparent governance. The need for such accountability increases manifold when the institution in subject is a prison. Opening up prisons and related criminal justice actors is an indispensable necessity for those who directly or indirectly come in association with it such as a prisoner, prisoner’s family and those who advocate for the rights of the prisoners. Lack of awareness of one’s legal and fundamental rights and lack of disclosure on part of the State renders the prisoners and prisoners’ family extremely vulnerable and those who advocate for the rights of the prisoners, ineffective.
One of the most important tools that has initiated a movement of transparency in Indian establishment is the Right to Information Act, 2005. RTI is a tool that empowers and facilitates the breaking of ‘privilege’ and ‘exclusivity’ of the ‘official’.
We use the RTI tool to open up prisons, police, legal aid authorities, human rights commissions, social justice and empowerment departments, courts, central ministries and state departments to understand its practical know-how. The evidence that is collected through RTI applications forms a rigorous base of our studies and advocacy policies. It also leads to our future course of actions on individual cases. We often engage with criminal justice actors and advocate with State Information Commissions to proactively disclose public information for ease and convenience of prisoners and their families.