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A person commits a crime whenever they engage in behavior that is prohibited by the law or when they refuse to carry out behavior that is required by the law. For the majority of offenses, incarceration is the penalty. The prison is the facility where those who have been found guilty


A person commits a crime whenever they engage in behavior that is prohibited by the law or when they refuse to carry out behavior that is required by the law. For the majority of offenses, incarceration is the penalty. The prison is the facility where those who have been found guilty are housed. A proper definition of prison can be found in Section 3 of the Prisons Act of 1894. Simply put, a prison is a facility where those who have been convicted of a crime are housed.


PRESENT SCENARIO: In comparison to ancient and medieval eras, the current situation of our prison system has undergone significant change. In ancient times, imprisonment was common, although it was only used to hold the wrongdoer in custody until his trial or the court’s decision. It was thought that the most straightforward form of punishment was incarceration. In ancient India, the jail system was not a common form of punishment. Such punitive statutes were not in effect at the time. The rules of Manu were the only thing that kept society in order and peaceful.

MEDIEVAL INDIA AND ANCIENT INDIA: The state of the jail system in medieval India was comparable to that of the system in ancient India. The Quran was regarded as the definitive source of law at this time. It was common to classify crimes differently. Crimes against God, State, and Private Person were the three categories into which crimes were categorized. Prisons were only utilized for detention in this instance as well. In India’s jail system during the ancient and medieval eras, there were no set guidelines for upkeep and efficient operation. Services for prisons were nonexistent. Even the provision of food for the detainees was nonexistent. Hieun Tsang claimed that the convicts were subjected to aggressive and brutal treatment. Last but not least, there were no prisons in the contemporary sense.

BRITISH PERIOD: Prisons were utilized as a form of punishment for criminals during the British occupation of India. The previous, barbaric methods of punishment were eliminated by this one. The jails, however, were still in the same state as they had been throughout the Mughal era. The British government had plans to modernize the prison system’s operation and upgrade the conditions of the jails.


In India, there are three levels of jails:

Taluka Level: Sub-prisons are another name for this category of jails. They are compact compared to other prisons. They exist in the subdivisions of the States. At this level, the jails are efficiently run.

District level: District-level jails are regarded as the primary detention facilities in States and Union Territories (where there are no central detention facilities) (where there are no central jails). There are 62 district jails in Uttar Pradesh, 41 in Madhya Pradesh, 31 in Bihar, 28 in Maharashtra, 24 in Rajasthan, 19 in Karnataka, 17 in Jharkhand, 16 in Haryana, and 12 in West Bengal. Jammu, Kashmir, Gujrat, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, and Nagaland: 10

Central Jail: A jail may be designated as the central jail at the state’s discretion. The majority of inmates housed at the central facility have received life sentences, death sentences, or lengthy prison terms. When compared to other tiers, these prisons have a sizable capacity. When compared to sub jails, the central jail has better amenities. The most central prisons are located in Delhi, where there are 16. Madhya Pradesh has 11, and Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Gujarat have each eight.

In addition to these jails, there are other types of jails:

OPEN JAILS: This kind of jail is reserved for inmates who behave well and follow the rules of the facility. The security in these prisons is minimal. Prisoners can be seen working in agriculture in this picture.

SPECIAL JAILS: The level of security in such a prison is high. These prisons are mostly used to house terrorists, habitual offenders, people who have committed significant crimes, aggressive inmates, etc.

WOMEN’S JAILS: Only women prisoners are housed in these types of prisons. This was created to protect women. Working at these prisons are women

BORSTALS JAILS: They are a special kind of reformatory facility for children and young people. The juveniles and children housed there get educational training at the Borstals schools.


The Indian prison system is ambiguous for several reasons:

OVERCROWDING OF THE PRISONS: Overcrowding has been one of the grave issues of the prison system in India. Living conditions are bad as a result of overcrowding. Moreover, it facilitates the spread of numerous contagious diseases. We are aware that COVID-19 has been plaguing the entire planet since 2020. In this case, overcrowding may result in significant transmissions among the staff and the inmates.

HEALTH AND HYGIENE: A lot of jails do not have proper medical facilities. This creates neglect towards the prisoners and most of them remain untreated. Hygiene is also not proper among the prisoners. It has been observed that lawyers representing the prisoners have to apply for basic amenities. It was observed in Delhi, prisoners were not provided with warm clothes in deadly winter.

DELAY IN TRIALS: A lot of cases are pending for many years. This leads to a disruption in the prison administration system.

CUSTODIAL TORTURE: The practice of torturing inmates in their care is fairly common. Although third-degree torture by police is now prohibited as a result of the groundbreaking decision in the D.K. Basu case, physical violence is nonetheless frequently present inside jails.

EFFECTS OF OTHER CRIMINALS: The serious and repeat offenders are occasionally housed in the same prison. The first-time offender gradually develops a habit of offending as a result.

LACK OF COMMUNICATION: In reality, prisons are places of punishment where criminals can undergo self-reformation and reintegrate into society. Yet, they get traumatized as a result of a lack of communication with the outside world or their family members. They never stop worrying that they won’t be welcomed back into their families or society. As a result, many of them develop mental illnesses, and instead of changing, they commit serious crimes.


A committee on prison reforms was established by the Indian Supreme Court in 2018 and is led by retired justices from the court. They are intended to investigate the issues of the inmate’s experience, make recommendations for solutions, and give particular attention to mothers who are incarcerated and their children. Overcrowding, a significant number of pending cases, a staffing shortage, and unsanitary food were major issues. Speedy trials, a higher lawyer-to-prisoner ratio, the creation of special courts, and avoiding adjournments are among the suggestions suggested to address the issue of overcrowding. Also, they advised every incoming prisoner to make a free phone call during their first week in custody. The group also suggested installing contemporary kitchen amenities.

The punishment for deaths occurring in custody is outlined in Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code. The Protection of Human Rights Act’s section 30 addresses the installation of CCTV systems within jails. Torture is prohibited by several international conventions. The DK Basu case led to one of the Indian Supreme Court’s historic rulings. The verdict instills in people a sense of protection for human life. Nothing on earth is greater than life, which is guaranteed to us by Article 21 of the Constitution. Even convicts are entitled to live. Also, the ruling ratifies the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Custodial rape was initially not clearly defined, but in 1983 the term was expanded to cover any rape of a woman by a police officer outside of the police station. The burden of proof is always on the prosecutor in criminal cases. This becomes a problem in the case of in-custody rapes since the accusers are typically powerful and influential. The evidence is simple for them to obliterate. A few changes to several statutes were made to address this. There are now exceptions under the Evidence Act. Section 114A of the Evidence Act was created by the Criminal Act of 1983.


Throughout ancient times, the Indian prison system has undergone numerous revisions. Nonetheless, there are still many reforms that the contemporary prison system requires. One of the biggest problems is that the Prisons Act of 1894 still governs the jail system. Before independence, this Act was passed, and the year is 2023. A lot has changed, and adjustments are necessary. Even though India has implemented several prison reforms, the situation has not improved. Prisoners still have some rights, even though they have committed crimes. They can’t have those rights taken away from them.

Author(s) Name: Yash Jha (Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur)