THE PUNJAB government is set to amend the 123-year-old Prisons Act with reforms for rehabilitation of inmates and gender-specific facilities for woman prisoners as recommended by a committee set up by the Punjab government in 2014. The colonial-era Prison Act dates back to 1894 and lags behind in providing facilities to woman inmates and rehabilitation for convicts. Under the proposed amendments to the existing Act and new additions, the legislation will be known as the Punjab Prison and Correctional Services Act. It has been examined by the Legal Remembrancer and is to be taken up by the Cabinet soon.
“The old Act needed reformation. As per the new Act, which was drafted by our committee, it is mandatory to provide woman inmates separate accommodation and accessories such as sanitary towels. The draft also has special provisions for lactating mothers. Among other reforms, the child is supposed to stay with the mother till he is six and once he is moved to a shelter home, the jail authorities are supposed to maintain a record of the personal details, guardianship of the child,” said Dr Upneet Lalli, deputy director, Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh, and chairman of the committee that drafted the amendments and additions.
Under the new provisions envisaged in the draft, the jail authorities are bound to provide education and recreational activities to children as well as monitor their needs for development. It also makes de-addiction centres at all prisons mandatory. Probation officers are to follow up with released prisoners on rehabilitation. The committee was set up by the state government on December 10, 2014.The other members of the committee were ADGP Jails (Retd) B S Sandhu and IG Jails Punjab (Retd) Jagjit Singh.
The draft also lays stress on rehabilitation of inmates. “We want prisons not to be a place where the inmates are punished. In fact, we aim to rehabilitate the inmates so that they can lead a normal life once they are out of jail. As per the amendments, the working of the jails should be monitored by a prison officer than a police officer as it is a place where rehabilitation of the inmates is also done,” said Sandhu.
ADGP Prisons, Gaurav Yadav, said: “The committee has done a fabulous job and it is in consonance with the international recommendations. The Act has been scrutinised by the legal remembrancer (LR) and will be taken up by the Cabinet soon.” West Bengal, New Delhi and Kerala are among the few states which have introduced an amended Act for the jail inmates and Punjab is likely to follow in their footsteps soon.