Legal Awareness among Prisoners


This article is written by Tanya Singh, a 1st year student of Amity University Chhattisgarh

The word prisoner means any person who is kept under custody in jail or prison because he/she committed an act prohibited by law of the land. A prisoner also known as an inmate is anyone who against their will is deprived of liberty. This liberty can be deprived by forceful restrain or confinement. Prisoners rights deal with the rights of the inmates while behind bars. Legal awareness is important among the prisoners. Legal awareness basically means public legal education, is the empowerment of individuals regarding issues involving the law. It helps to promote legal consciousness among individuals. There are certain rights of the prisoners which they should be aware of and these legal rights can’t be taken away from them.

The basic rights include: right to food water, right to have attorney to defend himself, protection from torture, violence and racial harassment.

Section 1 of the prison security act 1992, defines the term prisoner “the word prisoner means any person for the time being in a prison as a result of any requirement imposed by a court or otherwise that he be detained in legal custody”.


  1. Constitution:

The rights guaranteed in the part III of Indian Constitution are available to prisoners; because a prisoner is treated as a person in prison.

Article 14 contemplated that like should be treated alike, and also provided the concept of reasonable classification. This article provides the basis for prison authorities to determine various categories of prisoners and their classification with the object of reformation. Indian constitution guarantees six freedoms to citizens of India, among which certain freedom can’t be enjoyed by the prisoners. They are freedom of movement, freedom to residence and to settle and freedom of profession. But other freedoms conferred in this article are enjoyed by the prisoners. Moreover, constitution provides various other provisions though cannot directly be called as prisoners rights but may be relevant. Among them are Article 20(1), (2), and Article 21 and Article 22(4-7).


  1. The Prisons Act, 1894:

This act is the first legislation regarding prison regulation in India. The following are some of the important provisions regarding prisoners rights:

  • Accommodation and sanitary conditions for prisoners. (section 17)
  • Provisions relating to mental and physical state of prisoners. (section 18)
  • Examination of prisoners by qualified medical officer. (section 19)
  • Separation of prisoners for male, female, criminal, civil, convicted and under trial prisoners. (section 20)
  • Provisions for treatment of under trials, civil prisoners, parole and temporary release of prisoners. (section 21)
  1. The Prisoners Act, 1990:
  • It is the duty of the government for the removal of any prisoner detained under any order or sentence of any court, which is of unsound mind to a lunatic asylum and other place where he will be given proper treatment.
  • Any court which is a high court may in case in which it has recommended to government the granting of a free pardon to any prisoner, permit him to be at liberty on his own cognizance.
  1. The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950:
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This act was enacted for the transfer of prisoners from one state to another for rehabilitation or vocational training and from over-populated jails to less congested jails within the state.

  1. The Prisoners (Attendance in Courts) ACT, 1955: This Act contains provisions authorizing the removal of prisoners to a civil or criminal court for giving evidence or for answering to the charge of an offence.


Women should not be called to the police station for investigation and all the investigation should be carried out in the presence of a relative of the accused or her lawyer or a lady staff member. Women in police custody should in variably be under the charge of women police officials. A separate place with proper facilities should be provided in court premises for women prisoners awaiting production before presiding magistrates. Bail should be liberally granted to women under trail prisoners. The probation of offenders act should be extensively used for the benefit of women offenders. The women prisoners should be classified and kept separately as under

  1. Under trail prisoners shall be kept completely separated from convicted offenders even when there number is small.
  2. Habitual prisoners shall be separated from casual offenders.
  3. Habitual offender’s prostitutes and brothel keepers must also be confined separately.
  4. In no circumstance should adolescent girls be confined with adult women prisoners.
  5. Political and civil prisoners shall be kept separately from convicts and under trail prisoners.


the rights of prisoners are broadly categorized as right to human dignity, right to basic minimum needs, right to communication, right to access to law, right against arbitrary prison punishment, right to meaningful and gainful employment and right to be released on the due date. But to fulfil the perspective of prison management, that is, to consider a prisoner as a person with rights and to work towards their rehabilitation and reintegration in the society, as laid down in Model Prison Manual and as earlier pronounced by the Supreme Court, it is important to broaden the horizon of the rights of prisoners.


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