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The Prisons Act, 1894

The Prisons Act, 1894 was enacted on 22nd March, 1894 and enforced on 1st July, 1894. The act was legislated with purpose to amend laws in relation to prisons in India.

The term prison shall mean and include buildings maintained by state government with the purpose to detain prisoners.  Section 3 of the act defines other terms such as ‘criminal prisoner’, ‘convicted criminal prisoner’ and ‘civil prisoner’. Civil prisoner shall mean prisoner other than criminal prisoner.

Chapter II of the act deals with maintenance and officers of prison. The Act provides for appointment of Prison officers which shall include superintendent, medical officer, jailer and other such officers shall be appointed as deemed necessary. The prison shall be under in-charge of Inspector General who shall discharge functions as directed by the State. The state shall make proper arrangements for accommodation of prisoners within the prison. Incase of an epidemic in the prison or in certain situations when number of prisoners in prison increases the inspector general under supervision of State shall take necessary steps for safe custody of prisoners and provide temporary shelter.

Chapter III of the Act deals with duties of officers enumerated under sections 8 to 20.  Superintendent and jailer shall be officers of prison. All officers including jailor shall be subordinate to superintendent who shall be succeeded by jailer. Superintendent shall act in compliance of orders given by Inspector general and shall look into matters relating to discipline, expenditure, labour, punishment, maintenance of records relating to prisoners, visitors and accounts. Medical officer of prison shall be in subordination to superintendent and shall discharge functions with respect to sanitary conditions, health, treatment of prisoners, reporting to superintendent with respect to prisoners seriously affected with a disease etc. Apart medical officer shall also keep record of all particulars such as health, diet, diseases and date of death of deceased prisoner. Jailer of Prison shall always reside within the premises of prison and shall not leave prison without prior intimation. Jailer shall maintain all records and shall be in-charge of prison and documents. Jailor shall be assisted by deputy or assistant jailor. The Act also creates posts for prisoners, they shall be called as convict prisoners and shall function and carry responsibilities within prison premises and shall deemed to be public servants. Section 9 of the Act strictly prohibits jail officers to carry commercial activities within jail premises.

Chapter IV of the Act deals with admission, removal and discharge of prisoners. After conviction when convict enters into prison he shall be thoroughly checked and all his belongings shall be kept in custody of jailer. Female convict shall be checked only by female officers. A criminal convict shall be examined by medical officer and marks and wounds on his body shall be recorded.  Prisoner shall only be removed from prison premises if in the opinion of medical officer he suffers with acute disease.

Chapter V deals with discipline of prisoners, it lays few essentials i.e. that male prisoners shall be separated from female prisoners, convicted prisoners from under trial prisoners, prisoners under age of 21 shall be kept separately, prisoners sentence with death sentence shall be kept separately from all others.

Civil or an under trial prisoner shall have an access to commodities from outside the prison subject to examination of the goods being received. Such prisoners shall provide themselves with clothing’s and beddings. No part of food, bedding or clothing belonging to civil and under trial prisoner shall allow to be transferred to convicted prisoners.

Chapter VII deals with employment of prisoners. Civil prisoners shall work after permission from superintendent and shall receive all parts of their earnings. A criminal prisoner shall not work for more than nine hours and shall work only incase of emergency. All prisoners convicted for simple imprisonment shall be made to work within the premises.

The Act also lays directions as to taking care of health of prisoners within the prison premises. Prisoners shall be subject to regular medical check-up and sick prisoners shall be provided with proper medical care and attention.

Sections 42 to 54 deals with offences relating to prison. Any person who being into or removes from prison prohibited articles, abets offences prohibited under act or communicates with convicted prisoners shall be punished with imprisonment of six months or with fine of rupees two hundred or with both. Prison offence are enumerated under section 46, which shall include wilful disobedience of prison rules, use of criminal force or threatening language, indecent behaviour, refusal to work, causing damage to prison property or documents, preparation or conspiring for escape, levelling false accusations against prison officers etc, offences committed under the section shall be punishable under sections 46 and 47 of the Act. Incase a prisoner is in a habit of committing heinous crime time and again, he shall be forwarded to District Magistrate or any other Magistrate of first class by superintendent. The act under section 54 lays punishment for offences committed by prison subordinates. The prisons Act is an exhaustive Act which lays down laws essential for proper and smooth functioning of prison.

by Vibhuti Nakta.