The reviewer is a lawyer and a journalist on the staff of The Statesman.
In a first such high-level visit, a team of 3 Supreme Court judges is visiting the open prison in Sanganer to evaluate the workings of a cost-effective and humane prison model, where prisoners stay with their family members and earn their livelihood.
The team of the apex court judges will highlight key issues affecting the country’s prison system and push for urgent and immediate implementation of open prisons across India. This was disclosed at a press conference by these judges here on Thursday. They have undertaken the visit till Friday.
During the visit to Sanganer open prison in Jaipur, the 3 judges including the 2nd Senior most judge Sanjay Kishan Kaul, will be joined by his apex court colleagues, Justice Shripathi Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aniruddha Bose, as well as former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan B Lokur, and Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, Pankaj Mithal.
The prison visit, which will also include Ajit Singh, retired IPS and former Director General Police and Prisons of Rajasthan, is being organised by PAAR (Prison Aid and Action Research), a non-partisan research organisation that studies prison systems across the country and advocates for the expansion of the Rajasthan open prison model.
Smita Chakraburtty, whose 2017 report was the basis of the landmark judgment passed in 2018 and Founder PAAR, said “a humane alternative, open prisons are cost effective and pose less burden on the public exchequer. These prisons are 14 times cheaper than traditional closed prisons, where the need for prison staff is 81 times lesser than what is required in a traditional or closed prison system. The rate of recidivism or prisoners reoffending is also negligible in an open prison.”
In 2018, Justice MB Lokur had passed the landmark judgment to set up an open prison in each district and urged the Centre to take the lead in framing guidelines. Commenting on the progress so far, Lokur said, “The time has arrived for implementing the humanitarian idea of open prisons. I urge all State Governments to carry forward the idea and establish an open prison in every district.”
Ajit Singh, retired Director General Police and Prison of Rajasthan said, “I still strongly feel open prisons are the answer to several prison problems. The goal of any criminal justice administration is reforming and rehabilitating the inmate. The benefits of the open prison model are aligned to basic human rights of justice, liberty and dignity of the prisoner’s. We must not lose momentum in implementing and scaling this across the country.”
The prison visit will be followed by a special performance of Susmit Bose, who is a social change artist and has been using the power of music to highlight human rights since five decades.