Prison reforms need to be given more importance: Patil

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New Delhi, Apr 25 (UNI) Home Minister Shivraj Patil has today called for giving due importance to prison reforms and correctional administration and assured Centre's support to the State Governments in carrying out the necessary reforms.

Addressing the participants at a day long All India Conference of Ministers, Secretaries and Director/Inspector Generals in-charge of prisons held here, Mr Patil emphasised that prisoners too were human beings, who should be provided the basic and necessary amenities.

The Minister also urged the states to take full advantage of the funds provided by the Centre under the Scheme for Modernisation of Prisons and focus on its implementation on the ground. He also asked the states to take a long-term view and assess the requirements of the future, while planning the establishment of new prisons and related infrastructure.

He highlighted the importance of using new technologies in prison administration and called for taking help of experts and professionals in that area. The Minister also pointed out the possibility of involving NGOs in correctional and reformation activities.

Earlier, addressing the participants, Minister of State for Home Affairs Shakeel Ahmad highlighted the problem of overcrowding in Indian prisons due to the large number of under-trials. ''The Government introduced amendments to the CrPC resulting in provisions for Plea Bargaining and addition of Section 436-A to reduce time of stay of under-trials in prisons. Besides this, Fast Track Courts, Lok Adalats and Free Legal Aid also aim at reducing the under-trial population in prisons,'' Dr Ahmad said.

Home Secretary, Madhukar Gupta, gave the welcome address, while Director General of Bureau of Police Research and Development, K Koshy made a presentation on the Draft Policy on Prison Reforms. The presentation made by Joint Secretary, MHA, N S Kalsi listed the possible thrust areas for Phase II of the Scheme for Modernisation of Prisons, which may cover a period of five years with an initial estimated cost of Rs 3500 crore.

The conference deliberated upon several issues related to prison reforms including the Draft Policy on Prison Reforms, existing statutes relating to prisons and the necessary legal reforms, prison infrastructure, correctional administration, security and discipline in prisons and service conditions of prison personnel.

The participants in the conference included ministers from State Governments, senior officials of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Secretaries and Directors/Inspectors General in-charge of Prisons in different States and UTs.

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