Definition and Types of Prison & Prisoners

3.1 Definition of Prison:

Prison is a place used for confinement of convicted criminals. Confinement in prison, also known as a penitentiary or correctional facility, is the punishment that courts most commonly impose for serious crimes, such as felonies. For lesser crimes, courts usually impose short-term incarceration in a jail, detention center, or similar facility. “Prisonisation symbolizes a system of punishment and also a sort of institutional placement of under trials and suspects during the period of trial”

Confining criminals for long periods of time as the primary form of punishment is a relatively new concept. Throughout history, various countries have imprisoned criminal offenders, but imprisonment was usually reserved for pre-trial detention or punishment of petty criminals with a short term of confinement. A prison, jail, or gaol(other commonly used terms are: penitentiary, correctional facility, remand centre, and detention centre). In some legal systems some of these terms have distinct meanings. is a facility in which individuals are forcibly confined and denied a variety of freedoms under the authority of the state as a form of punishment. The most common use of prisons is as part of an organized governmental justice system, in which individuals officially charged with or convicted of crimes are confined to a jail or prison until they are either brought to trial to determine their guilt or complete the period of incarceration they were sentenced to after being found guilty at their trial. Outside of their use for punishing civil crimes, authoritarian regimes also frequently use prisons and jails as tools of political repression to punish political crimes, often without trial or other legal due process; this use is illegal under most forms of international law governing fair administration of justice. In times of war or conflict, prisoners of war may also be detained in military prisons or prisoner of war camps, and large groups of civilians might be imprisoned in internment camps.

“prison means any jail or place used permanently or temporarily under the general or special orders of Government for the detention of prisoners, and includes all lands and buildings appurtenant thereto, but does not include (a) any place for the confinement of prisoners who are exclusively in the custody of the police; (b) any place specially appointed by the Government under section 541 of the  Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 or

(c) any place which has been declared by the Government, by general or special order, to be a subsidiary jail”  In some legal systems some of these terms have distinct meanings.

3.1.1 The Jail Code-1894

Jail Code consists of the provisions of Prisons Act 1894, Prisoners Act 1900, Identification of Prisoners Act 1920, Rules made under Section 59 of the Prisons Act 1894 and Rules made under Section 60(a) of the said Act of 1894 for the superintendence and management of jails and subsidiary jails respectively.

3.1.2 The Prisons Act 1894:

This Act defines prison as any jail or place used permanently or temporarily for the detention of prisoners under the general or special orders of the government. Prisoners are admitted to, removed and discharged from the prison, disciplined and punished, employed, medically treated and provided with food, clothing and bedding under the provisions of this Act.

3.1.3 The Prisoners Act 1900:

Under the Prisoners Act 1900, prison includes any place declared by the government by general or special order as a subsidiary jail. This Act empowers an officer in charge of prison to receive and detain any person duly committed to his custody by any court in the prison until such person is discharged or removed there from in due course of law. A prisoner may be moved from one prison to another under order of the government or Inspector General of Prisons.

3.2 Types of Prisons

The prisons in Bangladesh can be divided into two major types :-

  1. Central Prison and
  2. District Prison.

3.2.1 Central Prison:

Central prisons are for the confinement of prisoners under trail, administrative detainees and convicted prisoners sentenced to a term of imprisonment for life and death sentence. There are twelve such central jails.

3.2.2 District Prison:

District prisons, located at the headquarters of the district, are used for the confinement of all categories of prisoners, except those convicted prisoners whose sentence exceeds 5 years. There are 55 District jails, which could be called “medium security prisons”. ‘District jails also hold long term convicted following the order of the higher authority.

3.2.3 Special types of prison:

There are some special types of prison of which the following are most common.

  1. Juvenile prison:

Prisons for juveniles (people under 17 or 18, depending on the jurisdiction) are known as young offender facilities or similar designation and hold minors who have been remanded into custody or serving sentence. It is no coincidence that the modern youth justice system emerged at the middle of the nineteenth century, at the same time as ‘adolescence’ and ‘juvenile delinquency’ was ‘discovered’. The deep ambivalence of the Victorians towards children was played out in the various discourses surrounding childhood – children were simultaneously idealized, worshipped and protected as well as being feared, exploited and regulated  .During this period, many social reformers and philanthropists directed their energies towards ‘saving’ and ‘protecting’, demanding that young people should be removed from the ‘adult’ prison population and placed in separate institutions . The Youthful Offenders Act 1854 provided the basis of the reformatories for the ‘dangerous classes’, and legislation three years later established ‘industrial schools’ for the ‘perishing classes’.

  1. Military prison:

Prisons have formed part of military systems since the French Revolution. France set up its system in 1796 . They were modernized in 1852, They are used variously to house prisoners of war, unlawful combatants, those whose freedom is deemed a national security risk by military or civilian authorities, and members of the military found guilty of a serious crime. Military prisons in the United States have also been converted to civilian prisons, to include Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz was formerly a military prison for soldiers during the American Civil War.

  1. Prisoner of war camps:

In the American Revolution, British prisoners held by the U.S. were assigned to local farmers as laborers. The British kept American prisoners captured at sea in broken down ship hulks. In the Napoleonic wars, the broken down hulks were still in use for naval prisoners. By 1900 the legal framework of the Geneva and Hague Convention provided considerable protection. In the First World War, millions of prisoners were held on both sides, with no major atrocities throughout Europe. Officers received privileged treatment. There was an increase in the use of forced labor

  1. Political prisoner:

Certain countries maintain or have in the past had a system of political prisons: the gulags associated with Stalinism in the Soviet Union are perhaps the best known. The condition of political prisoners in Bangladesh is not good at all. If the opposition party claims one as political prisoner government reject it. For example in 2003 The government of Bangladesh stated that it held no political prisoners; however, opposition parties and human rights monitors claimed the government arrested many political activists and convicted them on unfounded criminal charges NGOs did not have access to prisoners. On April 30, a Dhaka court granted bail to and released Salah Uddin Shoaib Chaudhury, who was detained at the airport for his attempted 2003 travel to Israel .

  1. Open Prison

The United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders held in Geneva in 1955,however made an attempt to define an open prison  thus:

“An open institution is characterized by the absence of material and physical precautions against escape such as walls, locks, bars and armed-guards etc. and by a system based on self-discipline and inmates sense of responsibility towards the group in which he lives” .

  1. Psychiatric hospital:

Some psychiatric facilities have characteristics of prisons, particularly when confining patients who have committed a crime and are considered dangerous. In addition, many prisons have psychiatric units dedicated to housing offenders diagnosed with a wide variety of mental disorders.

3.3 Types of Prisoners:

During the early period of prison system the object of punishment was purely punitive in nature. There was no need to classify the prisoners. There was a singular system of treatment for criminals. “The sole object of prisonisation in those days was to subject the inmates to maximum torture and pain and therefore there was no need to classify them. Now the criminals are classified in two broad categories .These are:

3.3.1 Hardened Criminal prisoners

Hardened Criminal prisoners who are fit for treatment in a conventional prison.

3.3.2 Casual  Criminal Prisoners

Casual  Criminal Prisoners who are fit for treatment in a medium-custody prison or even fit to be sent to a reformatory or realeased on probation.

According to The Prison Act 1894,there are three types of prisoners  They are

3.3.3 Criminal Prisoner

“criminal prisoner” means any prisoner duly committed to custody under the writ, warrant or order of any Court or authority exercising criminal jurisdiction, or by order of a Court-martial:

3.3.4 Convicted Criminal Prisoner

“convicted criminal prisoner” means any criminal prisoner under sentence of a Court or Court-martial, and includes a person detained in prison under the provisions of Chapter VIII of the  Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 or under the  Prisoners Act, 1900.

3.3.5 Civil Prisoner

civil prisoner means any prisoner who is not a criminal prisoner. “Civil prisoners may, with the Superintendent’s permission, work and follow any trade or profession. Civil prisoners finding their own implements, and not maintained at the expense of the prison, shall be allowed to receive the whole of their earnings; but the earnings of such as are furnished with implements or are maintained at the expense of the prison shall be subject to a deduction, to be determined by the Superintendent, for the use of implements and the cost of maintenance”


4.1  The objectives of Imprisonment

People are sent, usual reasons are given for retribution or deterrence or reformation. There is interestingly no strong evidence that incarcerating people in the prison make them more law abiding or better citizens. In 1990 a white paper was published by the government of U.K. The White paper stated that imprisonment can be an expensive way of making bad people worse.  If any reform to be happened to an individual, it cannot be brought about by keeping that person within the bars of the prison, rather by keeping them in the open society.

The arguments put forward in favors of deterrent value of imprisonment are not strong. Many people commit crime because of the influence of drugs or alcohol and deterrent principle is not applicable to them. The truth is that high or low rate of imprisonment has little impact on the crime level of any community. Increase or decrease in the number of individuals punished does not influence the frequency of crime in any society. Sending more people has every marginal influence on the crime rate of any society. This reality is common in almost all the countries. If incarcerating people had any impact on the whole world. More than one and a half million peoples are put behind the high walls of prison in USA and 550 people per 1,00,000 of the population are prisoners, which is far in excess of any other country .

Crime prevention is not something which involves only criminal justice system. We need to ponder over the matter from the very root of it. If people have some abode to live, a means of livelihood, and have personal support system, they are less likely to commit crime. We, therefore, are left with the conclusion that people are sent to prison because court has no alternative than to deprive them of their freedom of movement.


The prevailing Prison system in the world

There are some systems of prison prevailing in the world such as

5.1          The American Prison System:

During the medieval period imprisonment was used in rare cases. Punishment inside the prison was brutal an inhumane. The inside the prison. But in 1775 Philadelphia prison was remodeled on a new pattern. The prisoners were categorized into two main classes such as incorrigible or hardened criminals and corrigible criminals. Towards the end of 18th century the condition of Philadelphia prison was degraded because of overcrowding and maladministration. On that time the life inside prison was very hard, unbearable and painful. Gradually public raised their voice against such cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment. As a result a chartered was passed in 1862 which is known as Penn’s Charter against the heinous process or method of punishment. The object of this Charter was to put an end to brutal methods of punishment on humanitarian grounds and bring out reforms in prison administration. The Charter inter alia contained that :-

             The practice of releasing prisoners on bail should be introduced.

             Compensation should be allowed to persons who were wrongfully imprisoned.

             Prisoners should be allowed the choice of their food and lodging to certain extent.

             The system of ‘pillory’ punishing the offender in public places should be abolished.

5.2          The Pennsylvania System:

In 1790 the Pennsylvania System was first came out into function in the Walnut Street prison in Philadelphia. The prisoners were incarcerated in isolated cells during day and nights which was aimed at bringing about prompt reformation of the prisoners as it was considered to have extreme effect of deterrent. On that time while carrying prisoners from one place to another their faces were covered by hoods so they could not see each other. Only some classified people were permitted to visit the prisoners but not the relatives of the prisoners. The inmates were subject to prayers appropriate discourses so that they behaved themselves with greatest propriety and decorum. Finally this prison fell into disuse by later half of the nineteenth century and was finally abandoned.

Auburn System:

A new prison was constructed at Auburn in New York in 1818-19 in line with the model of Pennsylvania System. “The abandonment of transportation as an alternative punishment, the problem of overcrowding in prisons assumed serious dimensions and so from 1853 the system of ‘ticket of leave’ was resorted for tackling the problem of overcrowding”  The prisoner under this system worked in shops in an environment of complete silence. Hardened criminals were initially brought in this prison and subjected to solitary confinement. The main characteristics of this system lay in forced silence and separation at night but congregate in shops during day time. The prisoners were not permitted to other prisoners when they doing their work or during lunch supper time. Those who violated this rule they were punished.

5.4          The Elmira Reformatory:

The authorities tried to reform the prisoners through religious sermons both under Pennsylvania as well as Auburn systems till 1870.In New York, The Elmira Reformatory was established which provides for indeterminate sentence, parole and probation. American prison history experienced an era of reformation during next thirty years. Under this system the prisoners were classified as hardened criminals and incorrigible. During early 20th century the prisons were used as industries to train inmates for skilled work. This clearly served two purposes,

             Firstly, it helped in the rehabilitation of prisoners

             Secondly, work in prisons kept inmates engaged during their stay in prison with the result they were mentally and physically fit to return as a useful member of society after their release.

It was around 1930 that individualization of prisoners became the object of punishment and hence the criminals were graded not according their individual needs and chances of rehabilitation. America entered into the reformative era regarding to prison system by opening of Reception Centre at Illions in 1933.The cells in this prison were airy, well ventilated and equipped with adequate arrangement of lights. The conditions of  health and sanitation were considerably improve and inmates were provided facilities for reading, writing and schooling. The sentence of solitary confinement was completely abolished.