Jail Administration

Jail Administration refers to the administration of a particular place or places to which persons are committed by the courts for detention or confinement. The origin of jail administration based on a comprehensive law dates back to 1864 when the government of Bengal framed a detailed jail code. Until 1864, jail administration was carried out by means of sporadically issued circular letters and general orders. There had been in effect no uniformity in the jail procedure. However, The Bengal Jail Code of 1864 developed in the subsequent years into a compendium of rules and regulations issued from time to time and meant for the superintendence and management of all the jails including the subsidiary jails throughout the province. It comprised two parts, The Bengal Jail Code and The Bengal Subsidiary Jail Code.

The Bengal Jail Code of 1864 that is in operation in Bangladesh today, also draws extensively on the provisions of a number of Acts such as the Prisons Act (No. IX of 1894 as amended), Prisoners Act (No. III of 1900 as amended), Identification of Prisoners Act (No. XXXII of 1920), and so on. The major objectives were to regulate the management of jail establishments, confinement and treatment of the prisoners therein, and the maintenance of discipline among them. The Bengal Jail Code includes clear instructions that the provisions of the civil procedure code (Act V of 1908), criminal procedure code (Act V of 1898 as amended) and the Penal Code (Act XIV of 1860 as amended), which relate to the confinement of prisoners, execution of sentences, prisoners' appeals, lunatics, and the like, must also be complied with.

Jail establishments throughout the country are classified into four categories. First, the Central Jails for the confinement of prisoners sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of six months and above, including prisoners given life terms. Second, District Jails located in the headquarters of the districts for confinement of criminal and civil prisoners. Third, Subsidiary Jails located in the headquarters of the former subdivisions for confinement of criminal prisoners. But with the abolition of the subdivision as a unit of administration since 1982, subsidiary jails now exist in some of the existing upazilas. Fourth, the Special Jail for the confinement of special classes of prisoners. The District Jails are again categorised into 'first', 'second', 'third', and 'fourth' classes, depending on the average number of prisoners that each one of them contain in a given year.

The general control and superintendence of all jails is vested in the Inspector General of Prisons (IG Prisons), a senior-level government functionary. He is assisted by, in each jail, a superintendent, a medical officer (who acts as superintendent in some of the jails), a subordinate medical officer, a jailer, and such other officers and employees as the government may think necessary. There are also one or more Deputy Inspector General of Prisons. In respect of general supervision and control, the IG Prisons enjoys wide powers. All the magistrates and jail officers are required to obey orders issued by him in all matters relating to the internal economy, discipline, and management of jails. He brings any infringement in this regard to the notice of the government.

The Deputy Commissioner (DC) is also authorised to exercise a supervisory authority over a district jail. He is empowered, under the Bengal Jail Code, to take complete control of the jail in case he considers it necessary to do so. However, in such a situation, he is required to report the reasons for his action immediately to the IG Prisons. Further, while the superintendent has complete control of all the details of jail management, he is required to obey all orders of the DC which are not inconsistent with the Prisons Act of 1894, or with the rules made under it. The DC's power extends to a central jail as well in case it is located within the jurisdiction of his district. However, some restrictions are placed on the authority of the DC. He is not allowed to address any communication or order to any jail officer below the rank of Superintendent. All orders must be in writing and shall ordinarily be issued in the form of an entry in the visitors' book of a jail. He is also required not to interfere in matters of details affecting the jail management. He is further required to avoid actions which might weaken the Superintendent's authority over the latter's subordinate officers and the prisoner kept in the jail.

The DC also has the authority to make arrangements for carrying out the duties of the jail superintendent whenever there is a vacancy in that position or when the superintendent is on leave or out of station. Although framed in the late nineteenth century, The Bengal Jail Code still remains one of the most elaborate and comprehensive documents that provides for regulatory framework for jail administration. [AMM Shawkat Ali]