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Model Prisons Act 2023

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Social Empowerment/ Governance: design and implementation of policies


Source: IE, TH

 Context: The Indian government has prepared a new Model Prisons Act to replace the current 130-year-old ‘Prisons Act, 1894’, with a focus on rehabilitation and reform of prisoners instead of retributive deterrence.


What is Criminal Justice System in India?

The Criminal Justice System (CJS) in India is a set of legal and institutional frameworks that govern the detection, investigation, prosecution, and punishment of criminal offences.


  • The CJS in India is mainly guided by three major legal documents:
    • The Indian Penal Code
    • The Code of Criminal Procedure
    • The Indian Evidence Act.
  • CJS has four subsystems:
    • Legislature (Parliament)
    • Enforcement (Police)
    • Adjudication (Courts)
    • Corrections (Prisons, Community Facilities)


Need for new Prison Act:

Outdated lawsThe Indian Prison Act was enacted in 1894 and amended several times, but it fails to address modern-day prison challenges.
Human rights violationsE.g., custodial deaths, torture, and overcrowding are widespread in Indian prisons.
Focus on rehabilitationThe current prison system focuses more on punishment than rehabilitation, which leads to high recidivism rates (committing offence again).


A new act should emphasize the need for rehabilitation programs and better integration of prisoners into society upon release.

Improved healthcareMany Indian prisons lack adequate healthcare facilities, leading to higher mortality rates.
Technology integrationThe current prison system is largely manual and paper-based, leading to delays and inefficiencies.
OvercrowdingAccording to the latest data available from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the occupancy rate of Indian prisons is over 117%, indicating severe overcrowding.
Staff trainingMany Indian prison staff lack adequate training, leading to incidents of human rights abuses, corruption, and mismanagement.


E.g., In 2020 it was reported that the Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai, Tamil Nadu had only one guard for every 100 prisoners.


Key features of Model Prisons Act 2023 are:

To incentivise good conductEnsure legal aid to prisoners, provision of parole, furlough and premature release
For women and transgender inmatesEnsure the physical and mental well-being of these vulnerable inmates and provide separate accommodations
Reformation Move away from the retributive deterrence approach and transform prisoners into law-abiding citizens
Security assessmentEnsure the safety of both prisoners and prison staff by segregation of prisoners
Grievance RedressalProvide a mechanism for prisoners to raise concerns and receive appropriate responses
Prison development boardEstablish a board to oversee and advise on prison development and management
Use of technologyBring transparency and efficiency to prison operations
Use of prohibited itemsDiscourage prisoners and prison staff from using prohibited items, such as mobile phones, in prisons
High-security jailsEnsure the proper management and security of high-risk prisoners by the establishment of high-security jails
Open and semi-open jailsProvide different types of facilities to accommodate different types of prisoners


Implementations: Prisons in India and ‘persons detained therein’ are a State subject and MPA 2023 will serve as a “guiding document” for States. Therefore it is not binding on the states.


Previous other recommendations: 

SC appointed Justice Amitava Roy (retd.) The committee recommended several measures to address the issue including:

  • Speedy trials
  • Increasing the number of lawyers for prisoners
  • Setting up special fast-track courts for petty offences
  • Promoting the concept of plea bargaining


Initiative for prison reforms in India:

The Modernisation of Prisons Project (2021-26) aims to enhance security and facilitate prisoner rehabilitation in India through the use of modern security equipment; E-Prisons Project, Model Prison Manual 2016, and National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).



The Model Prison Act 2023 is aimed at improving prison administration and conditions, protecting the rights of prisoners, and promoting their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. It is expected to bring much-needed reforms to the Indian prison system and align it with international standards.


Insta Links:

Prison Reforms in India


Mains Links:

Q.Instances of the President’s delay in commuting death sentences have come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be a time specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions? Analyse. ( UPSC 2014)