prison, prison cell, jail



Mahatma Gandhi in his lifetime has always supported humanitarian over punitive treatment of inmates. Every person’s right to life and personal liberty is guaranteed by Indian Constitution as a fundamental right. The concept of prison was limited to the confines of a room where the convicted person was held in order to get him far from public activity and luxury so that he may repent for the evil he had committed. Since the dawn of time, prisons have existed in India and overseas as punitive and correctional institutions. The open prison is one of the reformative concepts used by the criminal justice system to help prisoners mould themselves into law-abiding citizens. This research paper begins with a brief history of open prisons in India, followed by a discussion of the meaning and types of open prisons in India. The researcher of this paper has further discussed incidents of many open prisons in India with some case laws. The researcher has also critically discussed the conditions of open prison system in India. In the end, the researcher has concluded the paper with some suggestions which can be implemented to develop the condition of open prison system in India

Keywords: Open Prison System, punitive treatment, reformative concept, India, Fundamental Right


The purpose of this secondary data-based analysis is to better understand India’s open prison system and the challenges it faces in implementing it. The information gathered comes primarily from books, journals, articles, government annual reports, and the websites of numerous governmental and non-governmental institutions and organizations.


“Criminology & Penology including Victimology (2017)” is a book authored by N V Paranjape which the researcher examined which talks about prison system in India.

“Prisons of Bihar: Status Report-2015, Bihar State Legal Services Authority (2015)” is a report by Smita Chakraburtty and is the report examined by the researcher while writing the paper which talks about the condition of prisons in Bihar.

“Report of NCRB on prison statistics in India (2019)” is another report which has been examined by the researcher in order to know about the statics of prison and prisoners in India till date.


“A nation should not be judged by how it treats its higher citizen, but its lowest ones”

– Nelson Mandela

According to Section 3 of the Prisons Act of 1894, “a prison is an institution where a person who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of imprisonment is imprisonment.” A survey done in 58 prisons in Bihar reveals a deplorable representation of prison environments. Congestion, inadequate training, prison violence, inadequate health and other amenities, long-term detainment of undertrials, forced work on inmates, manipulation of optional forces by prison officials, limited contact to lawful counsel, and widespread erotic assault of detainees are only a couple of the significant issues brought up in the survey.[1]

open prisons are the one which plays a very significant role in upholding the theory of reformation of the inmates which shall be on of the goal of the prison system. This gives a true picture of the idea of individualism of penalties where the inmates can be back to their normal life after paying their dues in the prison. The notion is initiated on willpower and the principle of “trust begets trust,” which, when appropriately accomplished, may transform human resources.[2] The value of ideas for prisoner reform and rehabilitation cannot be overstated. Positive consequences include convicts’ feelings of self-worth, dignity, and willingness to better themselves.[3]

The research paper purposes to find out the significance of open prison system in India and also the problem that is there for the implementation of open system in India.


Historical Background:

During the eighteenth century, primarily two prison reformers, John Howard and Jeremy Bentham, expressed a disgust for traditional punishment as well as the belief that institutions might be constructed to rehabilitate prisoners and prevent crime. Many institutions attempted to put John Howard’s ideas to the test in the late eighteenth century. However, these experiments failed to reshape the inmates. Despite the revival of the idea of prisoner reform in detention centres, reforms and rehabilitation programmes failed to meet the expectations of those who hoped to develop a system of tailored treatment. But after immense effort, Switzerland built the first open prison in 1891, followed by the United States in 1916, the United Kingdom in 1930, and the Netherlands in 1950. The Hague Conference in 1952 has led the foundation of outside camps. It expressed that those convicts who had finished a part of their sentence acceptably ought to be moved to outdoors camps and permitted to live in a close local area setting. These work-based camps would house a set number of prisoners and have the absolute minimum of insurance. What’s more, the detainees would be needed to work and get equivalent compensation.[4] The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is the main global instrument securing detainees’ privileges. In 1979, India endorsed the Covenant and is obligated to integrate its sections into local law and constitutional practise. It states “All those deprived of their liberty will be treated with humanity and respect for the intrinsic dignity of the human person.” Aside from common and political rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights[5] builds up financial and social basic liberties, expressing that those detainees reserve an option to the most ideal physical and emotional wellness.

The concept of open prison in India was established when first All India Jail Committee was appointed in 1836. However, the outcomes were unsatisfactory, prompting the formation of a number of committees, the most important of which was the All-India Committee on Jail Reforms in 1956. The Mulla Committee[6] was the most important committee that influenced the formation of India’s open prison system. In Chapter XIX of the committee report, the Committee makes a statement about open institutions. The first open jail in quite a while was set up in the Bombay Presidency in 1905 in India. The prisoners were identified from the Thane Central Jail’s extraordinary class of detainees. This open jail, notwithstanding, was shut in 1910. In 1953, the territory of Uttar Pradesh made the principal open jail camp close to Varanasi, UP, for the development of a dam over the Chandraprabha River. Numerous different states took cues from Uttar Pradesh in setting up open prisons. In 1996, India had 24 open prisons (barring semi-open camps) spread more than 12 states. Detainment facilities have limits going from under 100 to 1,000 prisoners. The kind of housing accessible fluctuates by area. Lasting dormitories were accessible in Assam, Kerala, and Himachal Pradesh detainment facilities; pre-assembled structures are accessible in Mysore jail, while quarters with asbestos rooftops are accessible in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra penitentiaries. Some of these jails solely employ people in agricultural, while others employ people in both agriculture and industry.[7]

Meaning Of Open Prison System:

According to Rajasthan Prisoners Open Air Camp Rules, 1972 open prison are, “prisons without walls, bars and locks.”[8] The Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu Prison Manuals defined the term “open prison” as “any place so used permanently (or temporarily) under any order of the State Government for the detention of prisoners [under clause (1) of section 3 of the Prisons Act, 1894].[9] In contrast, the West Bengal Notification of 1986[10] provides a more comprehensive definition of open prison. It means “a Prison House not surrounded by walls or fencing of any kind.” The UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders at Geneva, in 1955, depicted open jail in the accompanying words: “An open jail is portrayed by the shortfall of material or actual safeguards against escape (dividers, locks, bars, equipped or skewered safety officers) and by a framework dependent on self-control and the detainees’ feeling of obligation towards the gathering in which he lives”[11]


The main characteristics of open prison institution:

The characteristics of an open prison may be summarized as follows:

  1. It empowers relaxed and formal living in little gatherings with least proportion of scrutiny.
  2. It endeavors to advance cognizance among detainees about their social obligations.
  3. It gives massive region for the preparation of the detainees in the rural and other related vocation.
  4. It also provides the prisoners the opportunity to meet their family members so that their domestic relationship can be solved.
  5. It thinks about standard and paid work for detainees under master watch as the best technique for improving the wrongdoers.
  6. The aversion of unduly long institutional confinement of detainees is the fundamental approach hidden in the open jail.

Significance of open prisons:

The use of open jails during the post-freedom time has been generally fantastic and evoked much among penologists as a generous extent of detainees needn’t bother with maintenance in watched jail walled in areas. The significance of building open air prisons in different states of India are:

  • To alleviate jail overcrowding, encourage good behavior, and provide self-reliance training.
  • To provide consistent, long-term labour for public works projects,
  • To alleviate difficulties and instill hope among long-term customers,
  • To give agricultural and industrial training, to assess the feasibility of releasing convicts from jail, and to allow prisoners to live with their families (in some states)

The fundamental objectives of open penitentiaries are to lessen jail stuffing, reward acceptable conduct, give independence preparing, give reliable perpetual work to public works, forestall dissatisfactions and make trust among long haul detainees, giving preparation in farming and industry, look at the appropriateness of delivering wrongdoers from detainment facilities, and empower detainee discharge.[12]

Do Aankhen Barah Haath[13] (1957), a Hindi film, shows the thought of open detainment facilities in India, which is for the most part dependent on humanistic brain science. The film follows a youthful prison superintendent who changes six notorious executioners who had been liberated on parole into great individuals. He constrains them to work with him on an overview country ranch, where they are restored using difficult work and cherishing guidance. They in the end procure a plentiful gather.

The Supreme Court ordered the Center to direct conversations with prison authorities across India in December 2017 to build up more open penitentiaries. This choice was given because of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) brought by counsel Gaurav Agarwal in regards to the regrettable territory of Indian prisons. The court likewise mentioned that the Center research Rajasthan’s open correctional facilities model to acquire a more profound handle of the idea.[14]

Sampurnanad Open Prison, Rajasthan: Sampurnanad opens a jail at Sanganer close to Jaipur in the province of Rajasthan was set up in1958. It is one of the 23 open penitentiaries in Rajasthan Open Prison, Sanganer, Rajasthan, and 46 in India (Government letter, 1962). At the hour of its foundation, it had a limit of 20 detainees yet in-housed just 11prisoners. In 1962 it was shut yet in 1963 the then Governor of Rajasthan Mr. Sampurnanad began it by and by and it was additionally named after him. The limit was likewise expanded to 50 and 47 detainees were housed in it. The detainees did cultivate and made Dari (thin beddings) in their leisure time to procure three to eight rupees each day. It was expected to permit detainees to act naturally adequate and restrained. According to Rajasthan open jail rules 1972 it can house detainees who had finished 33% of their sentence and who showed acceptable conduct and whose names are suggested by a board of trustees shaped for this reason by the state. Detainees living in the open jail bring in their own cash and use it for their own costs.[15]

Open prisons in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh: In the year 1955, in the Maharashtra town of Yarvada, an open prison was created. Inmates in such an open penitentiary were assigned to cooperative farming. Another open jail camp has been established in Maharashtra’s Satara district, in Swantrapur. This prison farm occupies nearly 50 acres of land. The inmates on this prison farm lived in huts built specifically for them with their families, with no surveillance or oversight.

The Supreme Court specifically said in Ramamurthy vs State of Karnataka,[16]that open air-prisons play an important role in the scheme of reformation of a prisoner which has to be one of the desideratum of prison management. They represent one of the most successful application of the principle of individualism of penalties with a view to social readjustment. Though open-air prisons, create their own problems which are basically of the management, we are sure that these problems are not such which cannot be sorted out. For the greater good of the society, which consists in seeing that the inmates of a jail come out, not as a hardened criminal but as a reformed person, not managerial problem is insurmountable. So let more and more open-air prisons be opened. To start with, this may be done at all the district headquarters of the country.

The Supreme Court of India observed in Dharmbir vs State of Uttar Pradesh[17] that “open prisons had certain advantages in the context of young offenders who could be protected from some of the well-known vices to which young inmates are subjected in conventional jails.”

According to the latest Prison Statistics of India Report, 2018,[18] just 17 states and union territories had open jails as of December 31, 2018. Rajasthan has 31 open prisons out of a total of 77 in India. The state with the highest occupancy rate (114.53 percent) is West Bengal, while the state with the lowest percentage is Andhra Pradesh (15.33 percent). Only two states, Maharashtra and Kerala, have built capacity in open jails for female detainees.

Criticism Of Open Prison System in India:

Though open prisons have significance in India but because of some lacunae in the implementation of reforms in prison system it faces certain criticism.

  • The Open Prisons are underutilized. These penitentiaries have a limit of 25776 detainees, anyway just 3786 are right now housed there (starting at 2015). This exhibits that, in spite of the way that shut correctional facilities are stuffed, open penitentiaries are vacant.
  • In most states, prisoners are picked by an advisory group that has no responsibility since they are not needed to offer explanations behind their choices. This prompts debasement and partiality.
  • There are no protections set up for the people who are going to start their sentence. At any rate, semi-open prisons ought to be made accessible to new guilty parties. There is no arrangement for under-preliminary prisoners to be housed in open detainment facilities.
  • Every state has deficient open detainment facilities. Open Prisons are various in certain states, while others have just one, and no Union Territory in India has one. This uniqueness exists among states because of the state list subject.


Despite significant problems in the way open prisons operate, they must be regarded as an important part of the modern jail system. They’ve made significant contributions to humanity in overall and the prison community in precise. The functioning of open jails has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the driving concept of modern jail administration should be help, not hate, over the years. The concept of open and semi-open detention facilities allows offenders to work outside of prison and start a business before returning to prison in the evening. This concept should be embraced by prison administrators across the country.

Open prisons are a great notion that, if properly implemented, might alter the prison system. However, there are so few open prisons, and those that do exist lack basic infrastructure, necessitating significant improvements in order to make a significant impact on the system.


  1. Anju Sinha, Open Prisons, Their Working and Utility as Institutions of Reformation and Rehabilitation, 2IJHSSI 73, 75-76 (2013).
  2. SMITA CHAKRABURTTY, PRISONS OF BIHAR: STATUS REPORT-2015, (Bihar State Legal Services Authority), 13, (2015), Prisons of Bihar.pmd (
  3. Dharmbir v State of Uttar Pradesh (1979), 3 SCC 645.
  5. BPR and D, Model Prison Manual for The Superintendence and Management of Prisons in India, Bureau of Police Research and Development, Ch XXI, 4 (2003)
  6. PROF. N.V. PARANJAPE, CRIMINOLOGY & PENOLOGY WITH VICTIMOLOGY, 555 (Central Law Publications, Allahabad, 18th ed. 2019)
  7. Rohit Bura, Notes on Open Prisons in India, PRESERVE ARTICLES (JUL. 7, 2021, 11:20 AM), http:/ /,
  8. Sunitha Rao R & Aparajita Ray, Life Grows in This Open Prison, THE TIMES OF INDIA, (Jul. 7, 2021, 12:30 PM) w/36085591.cms.
  9. Ramamurthy v State of Karnataka (1997), 2 SCC 642 (659).




[1] SMITA CHAKRABURTTY, PRISONS OF BIHAR: STATUS REPORT-2015, (Bihar State Legal Services Authority), 13, (2015), Prisons of Bihar.pmd (

[2] PROF. N.V. PARANJAPE, CRIMINOLOGY & PENOLOGY WITH VICTIMOLOGY, 555 (Central Law Publications, Allahabad, 18th ed. 2019)

[3] SUBHRA GHOSH, OPEN PRISONS AND THE INMATES, 9 (Mittal Publications, New Delhi, 1st ed. 1992.)

[4] Implementation of the Recommendations of All-India Committee on Jail Reforms (1980-83), § Section 24, Vol. 1, (Bureau of Police Research & Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, 2003)

[5] Adapted by the General Assembly on 16th December 1966 and entered into force on 3rd January, 1976.

[6] All India Committee on Jail Reforms, 1983.

[7] Rohit Bura, Notes on Open Prisons in India, PRESERVE ARTICLES (JUL. 7, 2021, 11:20 AM), http:/ /,

[8] The Rajasthan Prisoners Open Air Camp Rules, 1972

[9] See, sec. 2 (b), the Maharashtra Open Prison Rules, 1971 and Government of Tamil Nadu, the Tamil Nadu Prison Manual, vol. II, chap. XXXVI: Open Air Prisons, vol. II, p. 149.

[10] Government of West [Home (Jails) Dept.], Notification No. 1819-HJ dated August 2, 1986, amending the West Bengal Jail Code. See, Government of West Bengal, the West Bengal Jail Code, chap. XXXIX:Open Prisons, sec. 635


[12] Rohit Bura, supra note 8, at 4

[13] The film is inspired by the story of an “open prison” experiment at Swatantrapur in the then princely state of Aundh near Satara (Now in Sangli district of Maharashtra)

[14] BUSINESS STANDARD, (last visited, JUL. 8, 2021)

[15] Sanganer’s No-Bars Prison Gives Criminals a New Lease of Life, INFO CHANGE NEWS AND FEATURES, (Jul. 7, 2021, 12:30 PM)

[16] Ramamurthy v State of Karnataka (1997), 2 SCC 642 (659)

[17] Dharmbir v State of Uttar Pradesh (1979), 3 SCC 645

[18]NCRB (2018b), Prison Statistics of India Report, 2018, National Crime Records Bureau, 29 (2018),

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