Improve Prison Conditions and Release Under Trials

Improve Prison Conditions and Release Under Trials
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The J&K High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on district judges for not submitting jail visit reports despite repeated directions. It also directed Registrar General to comply with the directions passed by the court on May 25 and report to it within a week. Before delineating on the nature of the directions, the conditions of prisons and the court order to release under trials, a philosophical digression might be warranted here. Perhaps, the best morphology of prisons was adumbrated by the French philosopher, Michael Foucault who, among other things held that the nature and premises underlying criminal justice systems and prisons thereof had changed drastically since the time of absolute monarchies to modern times. To quote Foucault, “Under absolute monarchy, the criminal defied the authority of the king, and the authority crushed him and dramatically reminded everybody of its unlimited power. For the theoreticians of the Enlightenment, someone who committed a crime broke the contract that bound him to his fellows. Society put him aside and “reformed” him by carefully regulating his every action and every moment of his life in prison. It means a rigorous regulation of space, because the guard can and must see everything. It is also the rigid regulation of the use of time hour by hour. Finally, it involves regulation of the slightest bodily movements or change of position”. While prisons might or might not correspond exactly to Foucault’s morphology, but the fact remains that their premise is control and domination over incarcerated individual(s). This is, insofar, as the broad theory and philosophy is concerned. There are practical issues of important associated with prisons and incarceration. While imprisonment is something that no one want for himself or herself, and prisons everywhere are prisons, so to speak, but in this part of the world, they do not lend themselves to a portrait of sanguinity. Prison infrastructure, management and so on, themes that the High Court has dwelt upon and sound remedial action, are found wanting. All this creates an additional burden for prisoners of assorted varieties. In lie of this, it is a moral imperative that conditions of prisoners be ameliorated and they be accorded rights that they are entitled to. Moreover, in consonance with the court’s directions, under trials, for who conditions of release and the nature of their trials remains uncertain and open ended be released. It is not only prisoners that remain at the sufferance of conditions but also their families. It is about time that these be redressed.