Establishing open prisons can be solution to decongest jails: SC

NEW DELHI, May 9: The Supreme Court on Thursday said establishing open jails can be one of the solutions to overcrowding and also address the issue of rehabilitation of prisoners.
Semi-open or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the premises during the day to help them earn a livelihood and return in the evening. The concept was brought in to assimilate the convicts with the society and reduce their psychological pressure as they faced difficulties in leading normal lives outside.
While hearing a plea on jails and prisoners, a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said it wants to expand the presence of open prisons across the country.
“One of the solutions for overcrowding of the prisons can be establishing open air prisons/camps. The said system is efficiently working in the state of Rajasthan. Apart from addressing the issue of congestion in prison, it also addresses the issue of rehabilitation of prisoners,” the bench said.
The bench made clear that it would not touch upon issues related to jails and prison reforms which are already pending adjudication before its coordinate benches in some other petitions.
The counsel appearing for the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) told the court it had sought responses from all states on open prisons and 24 of them have responded.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, assisting the apex court as an amicus curiae in the matter, said convicts are not informed that they have a right to approach the appellate court through the legal services authority.
The bench said if there is a uniform e-prison module across the country, many of these things can be sorted out.
It said the issue of e-prison module, a comprehensive jail management system, was being dealt with by a coordinate bench.
“We will also consider the issue of open prisons in this proceeding,” the bench said, adding, “We plan to expand it and ensure that this system of open air prisons is adopted across the country”.
The bench requested advocate K Parameshwar to assist it as an amicus along with Hansaria.
It also requested the counsel appearing for NALSA to assist the court in the matter and posted it for hearing on May 16. (PTI)

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