The Standing Committee on Empowerment of Women has suggested that more women lawyers should engage with the District Legal Aid Societies (DLASs) to ease access for justice to women prisoners.
In its report titled ‘Women in Detention and Access to Justice’, the Committee, chaired by Ms. Bijoya Chakravarty, also suggests that an impact assessment of the Model Prison Manual, 2003 and the new Model Prison Manual, 2016 be carried out, noting, “The Model Prison Manual, 2003 was prepared with the objective of bringing uniformity in rules governing prison administration across the country. A revised Model Prison Manual had been approved in January, 2016. The Committee noted that no notable steps were needed to secure the implementation of the Model Prison Manual, 2003. Further, it observed that after thirteen years since the passage of the manual, no impact assessment was guided on its execution committee recommended that an impact assessment should be conducted regarding implementation of both the Model Prison Manual, 2003 and the new Model Prison Manual, 2016.”
The Report takes note of the problem of overcrowding of jails, and points out that one of the key reasons for this is delay in trials. Playing up the fact that most of these under-trials are petty crooks, it suggests that alternative methods be employed for dealing with non-criminal offenders and petty crooks.
The Committee also came across infringement of the rights of prisoners as a termination of police behavior during detention, and hence, recommends that better surveillance measures be put in stead in parliamentary procedure to ensure effective prison management. In the same folio, it indicates that officials be provided proper training to ensure gender sensitization in prison management. Also, special recruitment efforts have been advocated for, to recruit more women officials.
Further, the Committee noted the lack of data on common health ailments prevalent among women prisoners and has suggested that surveys be conducted across prisons, in collaboration with state governments and NGOs, to compile such data.
Furthermore, it sounded off that foreign prisoners were more vulnerable because of causes including: (i) lack of discernment of the trial process (ii) absence of good translators (iii) linguistic differences. It, therefore, advocates that the prison authorities should speak the religious, dietary, and spiritual needs of foreign prisoners. It also advises that special cells be created for dealing with foreign subjects in detention.
By–Manavi Joshi, Student Reporter, INBA