New model prison manual ready

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) A new model prison manual, which aims to bring in uniformity in rules and regulations governing the administration of prisons and the management of prisoners all over India, has been approved by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The revised manual will be sent to all states and union territories for their guidance soon, a ministry statement said on Thursday.

A new chapter on legal aid has been incorporated in the model manual.

Under access to free legal services, provisions of appointment of jail visiting advocates, setting up of a legal aid clinic in every prison, legal literacy classes in prisons and constitution of undertrial review committee and provisions to ensure legal services for undertrial prisoners who have undergone half of the maximum sentence for that offence have been added, it said.

In the new manual, a lot has been added for women prisoners as their safety and reformation are of utmost importance in prison administration.

The health of women prisoners has also been recognised as a focus area warranting special attention.

With this in mind, the revised manual will look into comprehensive health screening for women prisoners, including tests to determine presence of sexually transmitted or blood-borne diseases, mental health concerns and existence of drug dependency.

This has been drawn from the UN rules for the treatment of female prisoners and non-custodial measures for women offenders adopted by the UN General Assembly, the statement said.

Similarly, provision of legal aid to prisoners sentenced to death at all stages, even after rejection of mercy petitions, regular mental health evaluation for death row prisoners, physical and mental health reports to certify that the prisoner is in a fit physical and mental condition too have been revised in the new manual.

Additions have also been made in the manual to encourage use of technology in jails where authorities have been asked to introduce a Personal Information System for recording information relating to inmates.

Also, any register required to be maintained by the prison authorities has also to be in an electronic form.

The new manual also focuses on “after-care services” of the inmates. It says that it is the states’ responsibility to devise and develop mechanisms for rehabilitation of released convicts.

“It is envisaged that special committees known as Discharged Prisoners’ After-Care and Rehabilitation Committees should be set up at the district or state level for planning and devising appropriate mechanisms for rehabilitation and after-care assistance to prisoners,” it added.

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