Good Conduct during Imprisonment: A Ticket to Freedom

Abstract –

There are various ways through which an accused who has been awarded a prison sentence can be released. In India, prisoners can be released from prison before their actual date of release on the grounds of good behaviour. By examining their behaviour, the prison authorities tend to determine if the prisoner under their charge has repented for their crime or not. If they find the accused rueful then, they tend to decrease their sentence. It has been found that imprisonment does not always lead to changed behaviour and that assimilation with society after a long prison sentence can be difficult. Releasing prisoners on account of their good behaviour is an effective way to make sure two things – one that the prisoners put in actual effort to change their deviant ways and two that the already overburdened prison system in India can be relieved off of some of its weight.

Keywords –

Imprisonment, constitutional law, release of criminals, remission.

Introduction –

In India, the prison system is weighed down by the sheer number of criminals that there are. We do not have enough prisons to keep all of them. Apart from that, it has been found time and again that imprisonment is not the best way to bring about a change in people. It makes it difficult for them to examine their mistakes when they are locked up with a group with no one to talk to and get guidance from. In such cases, it has been found that when prisoners are released early or when they are provided with the kind of resources that they need, true change can be brought about.

It was the All India Committee on Jail Reforms headed by Justice A.N. Mulla which was appointed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which suggested the government to formulate some reforms to the present prison system. It was on the basis of these recommendations that the system of releasing prisoners early from the prison on the basis of their good behaviour. The committee had identified that most of the population in prison weren’t in for violent crimes, but by associating with hardened criminals, they might turn to a life of crime once they are released.

International Perspective –

In the United States of America, criminals who have been incarcerated can get some time off their sentence for good behaviour. Inmates who follow all the rules of the prison, do not commit any additional crimes while in there, take part in some programmes that can earn good credit.

Indian Perspective –

In India, prisoners can be released early from prison on account of their good behaviour. The prisoner can become eligible for this by following all the rules set up by the prison authority and by taking up some industry. Through their actions, they have to ensure the people in charge that once they are released, they won’t turn to crime again. The system was introduced to encourage exemplary conduct from the inmates and to try and modify the brutal conditions in Indian Prisons.

Currently, there are four types of remissions in place:

  1. Ordinary Remission
  2. Annual Good Conduct Remission
  3. Special Remission
  4. State Remission.

The Superintendent of the Jail is in charge of granting ordinary remissions. A prisoner can become eligible for this by working in some capacity at the prison or the prisoner overseer, or the warden can also grant a fixed number of days as remission every month.

Foe annual remission as well, the Superintendent is in charge. This remission is granted when the prisoner has not committed any crime for a continuous period of one year. If they maintain the same behaviour for two years then, they get fifteen days off of their sentence and sixty days off if the behaviour is maintained for three years. Any prisoner who is eligible for ordinary remission is eligible for this remission as well.

Three people in the Prison administration system can grant this remission. The Superintendent can grant thirty days remission every year while the Chief Probation Officer can grant thirty days as well, but only to those inmates who have been released under the Good Conduct Prisoners Probational Release Act 1926. The Inspector General of the Prison has the power to grant sixty days off. It must be noted that under this remission, an individual inmate is entitled to both the remission provided by the Inspector General and by the Superintendent or the Chief Probation Officer.

The state remission is granted by the State Government on special occasions like the Independence Day or the republic day. The state cannot remit more than one third of the total sentence of an inmate.

Case Law-

In Maru Ram vs Union of India[1], the Supreme Court had pointed out that imprisoning someone for a long period of time may not be the most effective way to determine that once they are out, they will live up to the society’s standards. The court had held the rules of remission to be effective recommendatory guidelines.

In Pyare Lal vs State of Haryana[2], the Supreme Court asked the government to formulate guidelines for providing remission for prisoners. They had pointed out that the background of the inmate and the effect which it had on the society at large was not looked into. For this reason, they saw it fit to refer the case to a larger bench.

Conclusion –

The Indian Prison System does not have enough funds to accommodate the number of inmates which we have today. The condition of prisoners in prison is deplorable and even if the Prison Authorities want to make it better, they might not be able to do so. For this very reason, the remission system was introduced. Though the idea was to encourage good behaviour and a life away from crime, the goal has not been achieved due to the presence of systematic oppression and politics. Due to a lack of proper guidelines and criteria, prisoners in India have to dance to the tunes of the Prison Authorities lest they be excluded from the remission system.

It would help them a great deal if the government were to lay down a proper criterion so that any form of oppression or corruption which exists in the system today can be erased.

Reference –

[1] Reformation of Prisoners, (last visited aug. 03, 2020 21:05 pm).

[2] Alternatives to imprisonment, (last visited aug. 03, 2020, 12:00 pm)

[3] Hemalatha L, 100 good-conduct convicts seek freedom on Independence Day, The Hindu, Aug. 10, 2013.

[4] Gabriel Quinnan, Can I get out of Jail early for Good Behaviour?, Quinnan Law. (Dec. 21, 2019).

[5] 18 U.S. Code § 3624.

[1] (1981) 1 SCC 107.

[2] 2200 SCC ONLINE SC 583.

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