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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM


Updated: May 25, 2021

Author: B. A. Pratheshta


From the time of monarchy to the time of democracy, jails or prisons have been in existence in the justice system. Most common punishments of law in India or any other country involve fines or imprisonment for ages. Prisons are considered to be long-existing reforming centers of offenders from small petty offenders to heinous crime offenders. Prisons are small or large confinement zones of law breakers; it may be civil or criminal offenders. Not all offenders are imprisoned together. There are different prisons at different levels. The inmates are assigned with some particular role inside the prisons. In this article, the author will be discussing the types of prisons in India and the role of prisoners inside the prison.


Law offenders are sent to prisons for the period mentioned in the judgment. Similarly, not all offenders are sent to the same prison. There are different prisons at different levels. In India, prisons exist at three levels namely the Taluk level, district level, and central or zonal level. The prisons at the Taluk level are called sub jails. At the district level, it is the district jail and central prisons are at the zonal level. These three levels of prisons differ in their infrastructure facilities, the security levels and the facilities available to the inmates are progressively better for the higher level prisons. Apart from these prisons, there are other special prisons for women offenders (women jails), juvenile offenders, open prisons,etc.

Sub-jails: Sub-jails are the lower-level prisons in India. As these prisons are comparatively smaller prisons than other level prisons, theseprisons are easily well maintained and hazel-free for the prison officers. The majority of the inmates are petty crime offenders. In India, there are 617 sub jails in total. It is to be noted that the North Eastern states do not have sub-jails except Assam. The union territories of Delhi, Goa and Chandigarh also do not have sub jails. On the other side, Tamil Nadu has the highest number of sub-jails counting up to 96.

District Jails: District jails are the main prisons of the respective states and union territories in India, in the absence of the central jails in the state or union territories. The inmates in these prisons have higher sentences than the prisoners in the sub jails. As per the 2019 prison statistics, there are 410 district jails in India. The highest number of district jails are reported to be in Uttar Pradesh with 62 District jails. The union territories in the country do not have district jails as per the report on 31st December 2019.

Central Jails:Central jails are the larger prisons in the state. The inmates are often sentenced two more than two years. Mostly the prisoners are heinous crime offenders and we may find life imprisoned offenders and death sentence offenders. The inmates work there in the prison and they are paid wages for the work done. The amount earned is given to prisoners when they are released from prison. In the central jails, a lot of effort is put in for the reformation of the inmates. As per the report of India Prison Statistics, 2019 Delhi is reported to have 14 central jails which is the highest number of central jails in India.

Women Jails: There are exclusive prisons forwomen offenders. These special women jails are built to make sure there is safety for the women prisoners. The prison officers are also women. Not all states have women’s jails. In India, there are only 31 women jails with inmates’ capacity of around 6500 prisoners approximately.

Open Jails: Open jails are the upcoming new concept of prisons in India. Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has also encouraged the center and the state prison authorities to open more open jails in the upcoming years. These types of jails have the least security. The prisons are literally open with no compound walls or locks. The prisoners are engaged in some work, like agriculture, rock breaking and the prisoners are given wages to feed their families. There are certain rules of satisfaction to be in the open jails. Most probably the offenders in the open jails are first-time offenders with good behavior and previous good character background. India has only 63 open jails as of now.

Apart from these above jails, there are special jails in India which has the highest security than any other type of jails. These jails are especially forviolent crime offenders like terrorism, insurgency, etc.


Though imprisonment is a punishment the prisons are meant to reform the offenders and discourage the prisoner to commit the offence again. The inmates at the different types of prisons have different roles. In general, the prisoners are given some social work to be done inside the prison. In the case of juvenile inmates, the inmates are given general education to cope up with the outside world after the term of imprisonment. Handicraft works are being taught to make a living. Not all inmates are engaged in the work, sometimes the violent criminals are detained within the four walls of the prison. Basically, the inmates are rebuilt as responsible citizens inside the prison by giving counseling and rehabilitation reforms.


Jails and prisons are different but in general, these words are used interchangeably. Jails refer to detention confinements or custody in the police station where the accused are retained before and during the trialwhereas, prisons refer to the detention center, where the offenders are sent after the pronouncement of the judgment. Be it any type of prison the aim is to reform the offender. Prisons play a significant role in the penal system of punishments and help the justice system to bring justice for both the parties of a case.


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