Synopsis: The appointment of Police officers for Prison management is not right. It is against strengthening the criminal justice system.
- Recently, the Uttarakhand government issued a notification to post IPS officers as superintendents of Prisons.
- A PIL has been filed against the government’s decision before the Uttarakhand High Court.
What are the reasons for Posting police officers to monitor Prisons?
- First, it was done for strengthening security and to control corruption.
- Second, prison departments have limited strength at the officer level, leading to malpractices. So, the suggested solution is to bring fresh talent from outside, who would not have any long-term stake in the system.
Why appointing police officers to prison is criticised?
Though there are problems in Prison management, the process of appointing police officers is adhoc and short-sighted. Because of the following reasons,
- First, the skill requirement for police is different from a prison officer. For instance, police personnel recruited and trained to detect crime and maintain law and order. Whereas, prison officers are recruited and trained to reform and rehabilitate offenders.
- Second, it is not legal and amounts to a violation of rules and procedures. For example,
- The decision contradicts the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Jail (Group A and B) Service Rules, 1982.
- Also, appointing police officers in prisons amounts to a violation of the principle of separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.
- Third, it is against the philosophy of correctional administration. It goes against the Prison reform committee reports like the Justice Mulla Committee on Prison Reforms Report (1983), the Justice Krishna Iyer Committee on Women Prisoners Report (1987). They advocated;
- Prisons should be houses of reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners and their families.
- Creation of a specialised All India Prison Service along the lines of the IPS or IAS.
- Currently, Bihar is the only state which continues to have an IAS officer heading the prison department.
- Finally, posting IPS officers as superintendents of Prisons amounts to police custody. It is because it gives the police direct access to prisoners during “judicial custody”.
What is the way forward?
- First, we need to invest in the prison system in terms of resources and staff. It can be done in the following ways,
- Appointing social workers and counselors in sufficient numbers.
- Conducting regular training in human rights and social reintegration for prison staff.
- Filling vacancies, which are as high as 30 to 40 percent as per the India Justice Report 2020.
- Second, institutionalize practices that will promote upward mobility for prison officers. For example, rewarding good work with promotions.
- Third, need to uniformize their career growth equally across states. It will motivate them for better work performance.
- For example, in a few states, a prison officer who starts his career as a deputy superintendent of a central prison can end up as Additional IG or IG Prisons. Whereas in most states, one can only rise to the rank of DIG Prisons.