top of page


Paper Details Paper Code: LE-CLA-V2-20 Category: Legal Essay Date of Submission for First Review: March 28, 2022 Date of Acceptance: July 6, 2022 Citation: Kothika Ray, “A Brief Overview on the Evolution and Development of Prisoners Justice System in India and America”, 2, AIJACLA, 202, 202-208 (2022). Author Details: Kathika Ray, Assistant Professor, Bongaigaon Law College, Bongaigaon

Abstract Article 14 of the Constitution of India says that every person shall have the right to receive equal protection of law and is equal in the eyes of law. Prisoners are also a part of our society and they are also having the right to enjoy all these rights mentioned in the Constitution of India. Their rights as well as justice cannot be curtailed. As we know that prisoners are neglected by the society since time immemorial and their condition is very pathetic till now. Delay of justice system is one of the main reasons for violation of prisoners right. The history of prison system in India and every other country reflects in changes of societies and towards the view of the crime and criminals from time to time. It is also important to understand that every crime has a different type of punishment and also it is essential to maintain the uniformity of justice. Punishment should be based on the gravity of the offences. The modern Indian prison system is based on British model prison system which itself is an outcome of the changes of prison system in America in the late nineteenth century. In this research paper the researcher wants to discuss about the evolution and development of the prisoner’s justice system in India and USA to have a comparative understanding about the prison administration in both the countries. Keywords: Prisoners; Prison System; Reformation; Justice


Punishing an offender for their crime has been the main objective of every state. But in the last two hundred years the mode of punishment has changed because of the peoples changing view towards the crime and criminals. In the year of 1920 the Indian Jail Committee declared that the objective of the prison administration is rehabilitation and reformation of the inmates. Jail committee gave some recommendations and specific suggestions relating to the improvement of the prison system such as improvement of lifestyle of the prisoners, diet sanitary condition and medical treatment, administration staff etc. Prison management used for the first time in India under the Act of Prison Act 1894. The prison was constructed to keep the society safe and healthy and the wrongdoers behind the bars were kept when they were breaking the law and order in the society. The judiciary and police will decide which person should be behind bars to keep the society safe and under control. Prison is the place where the prisoners were kept and reformed them as a good human being who lives in the society with proper dignity and society will accept them happily. Therefore, the main aim of the prisons is reformation and rehabilitation of the offenders. Thus, once going to the prisons is not end of life, it is a chance of every offender to change themselves and the society will accept them in a better way. It is the duty of the State to rehabilitate the offender rather than punish him. The punishment must be based on unbiased, under punishment system compensation as well as imprisonment must be included. The compensation as well as punishment must be based on as per the gravity of offences. Therefore, in this research paper the researcher highlights some point which take as an objective of this research paper the researcher aims at analysing the evolution and development of the prison justice administration in India; discussing about the American prison justice administration; and also analysing the role of United Nations Charter under Prisoners justice system in India


A well organised system of prisoners was prevalent in India from the ancient time itself. In this period Brahaspati support the punishment system like imprisonment of convict in closed prisons. But the great Manu opposed this punishment system. Kautilya in his Arthashastra mentioned that ancient rulers used some lodge which were constructed like towers for the prisoners. He also mentioned that the prisoners were engaged in various outside works which helped their life to become easy and comfortable. Indian ancient period is based upon the believe on spiritual aspect on human life, so the prisoners should receive sufficient opportunity for penance and protest. Delivering administration of justice during the period of Brahaspati, Manu and Kautilya the offenders received some opportunities to defend his/her penance. This kind of justice system helped the offenders to become a good human being in future and it was favourable among the offenders in that period. During the Hindu and Mughal period in India the main object of the punishment system was based on the deterrent theory and this punishment was to be applied when the offenders committed an offence repeatedly. The punishment used during the Hindu and Mughal period for the offenders were death sentence, flogging, hanging, whipping, branding or starving to death , mutilation etc.[1] The condition of prisoners was extremely pathetic during the Mughal period. They were made to face many torture, inhuman behaviour from the rulers and they were kept under strict supervision and control. Therefore, the prisons were converted as a place of fear and torture and the prison authority’s behaviour among the prisoners was rough and tough during their jail period. Therefore, it is clear that the administration of justice system of prisoners during that time was very pathetic. The ruler’s behaviour towards the prisoners was brutal as well as inhuman in nature. Ultimately its clearly shows that the condition of prisoner’s justice system was very poor during Mughal period. The Muslim law also arranged punishment for various offences under the four main categories.

1. Kisa

2. Diya

3. Hadd

4. Tazeer

These type of punishments were provided to the offenders on the basis of irrationally specially against the Hindus.

There are four modes of punishment that existed in Ancient India. They were:

1. Admonition or warning (Vakdanda)

2. Remonstrance (Prayaschitta)

3. Fine (Arthadanda)

4. Imprisonment, death or mutilation (Vadhadanda, Mritudanda, or Anug Vichheda)[2]

Indian penal system changed with the beginning of the British colonial rule. The British prison authorities played a very important role in developing the condition of the prisoners as well as the prisons. In the year of 1836 the prison enquiry committee was appointed by the Government of India who recommended the abolition of prisoners working in the road outside the prison. Inspector -General was appointed for the first time in the year of 1855 who was the Chief Administrator of prison in British India. Unhygienic atmosphere which caused death to many prisoners inside the jail, the seconded jail committee expressed it in 1862. These jail committee also recommended about the living condition of the prisoners, food, medical assistant etc. Uniformity in working condition of the prisoners was made under the Prison Act 1894. This Act also included some important point which help the prisoners to improve their condition such as maintenance and officers of prison, duties of officers, admission, removal and discharge of the prisoners, discipline of the prisoners, employment of the prisoners. In the year of 1907 for the first time it was realized by the jail committee that there is a need to improve the condition of the juvenile as well as the younger offenders inside the jail. The Indian jail committee came to this conclusion after visiting various prisons all over the world and came to the observation that the prions must be reformative. This committee strictly opposed the mental and physical punishment of the prisoners inside the jail and suggested the jail authority to apply reformative method for reformation. The reformation of prison is one of the most important parts of our society which changed concept of the prison administration in India. The modern prison system has changed the concept of the prisons justice system in India in early time with the help of the prison reform methods and created favourable condition for the prisoners so that the reformative justice system can fulfil their objectives without facing any problems. The recommendations given by the Indian prison stem in the year of 1919 were the most important and effective recommendations which was implemented in 1920.The various recommendations were:

1. Isolation system was introduced on the basis of sex, age, gravity of punishment and types of offenders inside the prison.

2. Introducing classification of offenders, accommodation and working of the prisoners, engaged various training programme such as vocational training, craft, tailoring, computer as well as basic education below the age of 25 years.

3. Introducing some games inside the prison which help to motivate the prisoners such as indoor games and music competition, motivational drama etc.

4. To established and maintain social contact with the prisoners outside the world by the way of writing and receiving latter. This committee also give some opportunity to the prisoners to meet the relatives and friends on prior appointment basis.

5. Discussion about moral and religious matter in front of the inmates inside the jail.[3]

From the above discussions we can say that, in India rehabilitation and reformation methods is applied among the prisoners as a process of justice system in some cases. Indian judiciary try to avoid the mental and physical torture inside the jail. They support only those method that is very effective and useful when reforming a criminal as a good human being and the society will accept them without putting any questions. Death sentence will be announced by the judiciary only in rearrest of the rear cases. The judiciary also constructed some Boards in favour of juvenile such as Juvenile Justice Board, Observation home, special home etc. The legislature also enacted some laws relating to juvenile such as Juvenile Justice Act 1986 which was later amended and replaced by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000. Under this Act the juvenile are sent for reformation and rehabilitation and this board will help them in various field such as they provide basic education, vocational training, computer training, yoga etc. and bring them as good human being.


In the medieval period of American prison system, the punishment system of offenders was very barbaric and deterrent. It was considered as an era of horrific witness of American colonies. Inhuman treatment was used extremely among the prisoners. The criminals were brutally tortured and even the minor criminals were also punished with inhumanly. Merciless punishment given to the minor criminals such as death, public humiliation, flogging, whipping and so on. During that period the imprisonment system was not applied, the criminals were directly punished with death sentence. In America there was no mercy towards the offenders and the only way of punishment was brutal. The Pen’s Charter was enacted in the year of 1862. The main objective of this charter was to bring changes in the earlier concept of the prison system and to end the inhuman treatment as well as brutal punishment and adopt more humanitarian approach among the prisoners in good faith. The following recommendations were given by the Peen’s Charter which helped in developing and improving the condition of the prisoners during the American period. The recommendations were:

1. The bail system must be practiced among the prisoners.

2. Compensation should be given to the person who is wrongfully detained and the amount should be double the amount of loss suffered by the victim in the hand of actual offender.

3. The “pillory” punishment system must be abolished from the prison administration. Pillory means a punishing system of offenders in a public place by the prison authority.

The introduction of the charter and the implementation of it brought a new picture of the prisoners. With the promotion of the civilization and changes the view point of the society towards the prisoners changed and this era was considered as a great era for the prison reformation system.[4]


In the year of 26th June 1945 United Nations Charter was sign at San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization which came into force on 24th October 1945. In 14th December 1990 the General Assembly adopted and proclaimed some basic laws which are relating to protection and treatment of prisoner. The principles mentioned in the charter must be applied impartially in nature. The main principles of this charter are as follows:

1. Every person shall have the right to live with proper dignity and respect. Each and every person will be equal in the eye of law and they will receive it without any discrimination. The prisoners are also having the right to live with dignity inside the jail and it is the duty of the jail authority to respect it without violates their rights.

2. There will be no discrimination on the ground of sex, race, religion, colour, culture, language, national, political, property, birth and other status so on. The decision should not be bias in nature, and it must be based on under principle of natural justice system.

3. Religious and cultural belief towards the prisoners must be respected.

4. The prisoners are engaged many labours worked during their jail period and provide sufficient labour wages them thus they help their family living outside.

5. Solitary confinement must be abolished inside the prison. If this type of punishment used upon the prisoners with intentionally then the effect must be determined by their mental and physical health.

6. Medical assistant must provide as per their needs without any discrimination.

7. Human rights is a basic rights of all the human beings. Prisoners’ human rights is a most important rights which we cannot be curtailed. Thus, the right and freedom of the prisoners are provided by the International instruments under sone convention like ICCPR, ICESCPR, UDHR.

From the discussion above we can say that, the United Nations Charter played a very important role towards the prisoners’ justice system such as protection and treatment of the prisoners. This charter supported prisoners’ rights as well as its implementation. Therefore, all the principles mentioned above must be applied impartially among the prisoners. Solitary confinement, brutal treatment, inhuman behaviour inside the jail must be abolished. The conventions related to prisoners like ICCPR, UDHR, ICESCPR provide protection of prisoner’s human rights. Under these charters the labour wages are introduce in favour of the prisoners and provided the opportunity to the prisoners to become self- dependent. Right to live with dignity of the prisoners inside the jail was to be provided to the prisoners and the jail authorities must follow it without any questions, because Article 21 of the Indian Constitution granted that every person shall have the right to live and personal liberty. Therefore, they will enjoy this right without any restrictions and discriminations. Under this charter prisoner’s belief on their culture as well as religions must be protected and they will perform it without any hesitations or facing any problems inside the jail.[5]


In India administration of justice system played a very important role in the field of protection of prisoners’ rights. Justice means fairness decision or fair play action. In Ancient times the prisoner’s justice system was not good and it was not beneficial among the prisoners inside the jail. Brutal and harsh treatment applied by the Mughal rulers upon the prisoners during their time and therefore, that period was considered as a barbaric period. But in modern period the concept of prison justice system changed and new concepts were introduced such as reformative which helped the criminals in reformation. In 1920 the implementation of various recommendations helps to improve the condition of the prisoners as well as their justice system. After all the discussions about the evolution and development of the prison justice system in the ancient and modern period, it is clear that the prisoner’s condition and their justice system is not fair in nature. The paper further analysed the prison administration system in Ancient America and the recommendations that were followed for improving such prison administration. The International Instruments on Human Rights for Prisoners were also briefly looked upon. And afte considering all the recommendations in the various legal instruments and recommendations in both India and America, the following suggestions can be made for having an idle prison administration system:

1. Inhuman behaviour: brutal and harsh treatment must be abolished inside the jail. Respect their basic rights and give some opportunity to defend themselves.

2. There is an urgent need of speedy trail system among the prisoners. Delay in justice system is one of the main reasons of violation of prisoners right. Therefore, the justice system must be on time.

3. Rehabilitation and reformation system must be used only for first time offenders or younger offenders. The justice system of the hardened criminals should be different. There justice system must be based on upon the gravity of the offences.

[1] N.V. Paranjape,/ Criminology ,Penology Victimilogy/ Seventeen Edition/Central Law publication, Law Publishers & Distributors 107, Darbhanga Castle, Allahabad/ 2017 [2] Meetali Handa, Prison Administration Reformation In India/ Notion Press [3] ibid [4] N.V. Paranjape, Criminology, Penology Victimology/ Central Law Publication, Law Publishers & Distributors 107, Darbhanga Castle, Allahabad [5] Meetali Handa, Prison Administration and Reformation In India/ Notion press

84 views17 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Paper Details Paper Code: RA-CLA-V2-17 Category: Research Article Date of Submission for First Review: March 28, 2022 Date of Acceptance: July 6, 2022 Citation: Hema Swetha A, “The Devolving Classific


Paper Details Paper Code: RP-CLA-V2-16 Category: Research Paper Date of Submission for First Review: March 28, 2022 Date of Acceptance: July 6, 2022 Citation: Bikash Sen Deka, “Freedom of Press under

bottom of page