Model manual for jailbirds gets nod

Model manual for jailbirds gets nod

Allowing a final meeting between a death-row prisoner and his family as well as comprehensive health screening for women prisoners are among a slew of measures proposed by the new Model Prison Manual.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has cleared the new manual, which adds four more chapters to the existing 337-page 28-chapter document of 2003. A panel of officers had been working on it for the past 13 months.

With jail rules in states at variance with each other, the new manual aims at bringing in basic uniformity in laws, rules and regulations governing the administration of prisons and management of prisoners across the country.

There has been substantial addition to a chapter on Prisoner Sentenced to Death as the new manual wants to follow the Supreme Court observation that the “legal procedure adopted to deprive a person of his life or liberty must be fair, just and reasonable.” The “facilitating and allowing a final meeting between a prisoner and his family” is considered an important inclusion in the manual, as it would ensure that there would be no secret hanging as in the case of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The UPA government had faced criticism for not informing Afzal’s family and they were not allowed to meet him before his execution in February 2013.

Another significant measure is to ensure that death row prisoners should get “legal aid at all stages, even after rejection of mercy petitions”. Other measures include clearly defining the procedure and channels through which mercy petitions are to be submitted, communication of rejection of mercy petitions as well as furnishing necessary documents to them.

Identifying safety and reformation of women prisoners as of utmost importance, the latest manual has called for a comprehensive health screening for women prisoners, including tests to determine presence of sexually transmitted or blood-borne diseases, mental health concerns and existence of drug dependency.

Counselling programmes should also be organised with a focus on women, especially those who have been victims of abuse and focus on removing any further damage that imprisonment may have on them.

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