The Indian prison system is characterized by the authoritarian, routinized and formalized pattern of administration and negative attitudes of authorities. There is a lack of the enthusiasm and imagination. The Government also sees it just as one of the welfare measure which should continue in its regular course. The Prisons Act, 1894 requires remodelling.
The Indian prison administration has lagged behind on the reformative side of the prison work, and focussed mainly on the deterrence. Further, economic conditions in the country do not permit to evolve better modes of prison management. Some of the problems faced by the Indian prisons are as follows:-
1. Problem of prison discipline
The life inside prison necessarily pre- supposes certain restrictions on the liberty of inmates against their free will. This consciousness of subjection to compulsive forces of the State through the agency of prison often leads to scuffle or conflicts between prison officials and the inmates.
The general causes of prison-riots and disturbances are political instigations, monotonous routine of prison life, crude disciplinary measures, differences with the prison staff, etc.
2. Problem of criminality in prisons
Being unable to control their sex desire, the prisoners quite often resort to unnatural offences such as homosexuality and sodomy, etc. Therefore such offences and personal assaults are common inside prison walls. Another cause of criminality among prison inmates is their frequent quarrelling inside the institution. Every inmate tries to establish his superiority over his fellow prisoners. Group rivalry resulting into clashes between the inmates is a common feature.
3. Problems of women prisoners
The female vulnerability to sexual exploitation is enhanced in the male dominated prison set up. In general, a female prisoner is in greater need of privacy, seclusion, medical and psychiatric care; facilities which are generally inadequate for all prisoners, male or female. .
4. Problem of health hazards
Overcrowding, bad ventilation, bad drainage, insufficiency of clothing, sleeping on the ground, deficiency of personal cleanliness, insufficient medical inspection, etc., are the various factors which have a damaging effect on the health of the prisoners.
5. Violation of prisoner’s rights
A prisoner has certain personal (e.g. meetings with family members and friends), legal and constitutional (e.g. access to court and legal facilities, right to speech and expression), political (relating to elections-right to vote) and religious rights. These rights are often denied to them by the prison administration.
Because of the above-mentioned problems, the rehabilitation in Indian prisons is ‘said to be a “sick joke”.