ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Release Captives from Indignity and Death

The criminal justice system owes prisoners the opportunity for reformation and rehabilitation.


In one of the most progressive rulings on the state of prisons in recent years, the Supreme Court issued directives on 15 September 2017 for identifying and awarding compensation to the families of prisoners who had succumbed to “unnatural deaths” while in custody. Taking cognisance of the grievousness of custodial deaths and the perfunctory role of the state so far, the Court has requested the chief justices of every high court to register suo motu public interest petitions to address the issue. The ruling, acclaimed by prison activists and reformers alike, sets out recommendations on prevention of unnatural deaths in prison, visitation rights, legal and health services, implementation of the Model Prison Manual, sensitisation of prison personnel, as well as an endorsement of open jails.

The distinguishing feature of the September judgment is its dismissal of the notion that custodial deaths are merely a problem of prison administration. It rightly contextualises the issue as one that is symptomatic of the rejection of the ideals of reformation and rehabilitation. Instead, our criminal justice system adheres to the philosophy of retribution and deterrence, chronicled by the numerous cases of custodial torture and deaths, where the prisoner is characterised as someone who “deserves” to be punished.

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Updated On : 13th Nov, 2017
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