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workers. Under these conditions, production depended upon crafts-like work processes, which required experience, diligence and a certain degree of self-organisation, and were incompatible with a consequent division of labour, close management control and high speed as characteristic of Taylorist mass production. The work process in ITIs telephone division, which is presented as the consequence of the corporate (social) obligation to provide work for elder employees with nimble fingers, may thus in fact be part of a different, yet by no means less rational regime of production.

After all, automatisation is not even the latest cry of capitalist management: With regard to high-skill services, for instance, granting more autonomy to workers is advocated as an effective means to boost self-exploitation. ITIs reliance on the self-organisation of senior workers could thus be interpreted as an avant-garde application of current management fashions to semi-skilled industrial labour. We do not have to go this far, however, in order to see that ITIs development is not so much a history of foreseeable failure, as a history of conflicting economic rationalities.

A more consequent identification of shifting criteria for proper production and good work as well as the interpretation of these shifts in terms of a (changing) distribution of power between central actors may well have helped to avoid the trap of ascribing objective truth to the rationality of capital accumulation, although it has gained hegemony around 1990 in India and beyond.
Nicole Mayer-Ahuja is with the Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut Gttingen, Goettingen, Germany.

Prison Reform in India


he Indian prison system, notorious for its cruel and inhumane conditions, has received substantial government attention in recent years. Though the Prisons Act, 1894 still constitutes the federal framework for prison regulation, a plethora of reports on prison reform have been submitted to the union government and circulated amongst prison administrators. Nevertheless, prison reform remains sluggish as rights are systematically denied to inmates. Mahuya Bandyopadhyays Everyday Life in a Prison: Confinement, Surveillance, Resistance is an insightful contribution to the debate on prison reform in India.

Everyday Life in a Prison: Confinement, Surveillance, Resistance by Mahuya Bandyopadhyay (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan), 2010; pp 354, Rs 845.

Sociological Mapping
Bandyopadhyay presents a sociological mapping of prison life and contends that prisoner rights are distributed as privileges, that inmates forfeit some of their rights in exchange for contraband items as a means of reasserting agency and creating a sense of continuity between life within and outside the prison. She explores the negotiated relationship between the warders and inmates, and argues that mutual practices of subversion undermine the notion of the prison as a total institution. Bandyopadhyay argues that prison reform policies fail to consider the sociological process of rehabilitation and suggests that material improvements in conditions can facilitate a subversive behaviour,

which may ultimately be more effective in creating linkage and continuity with life outside of the prison. She fails, however, to acknowledge that the culture of leniency recreates external social hierarchies in which the lowest strata of inmates are systematically denied their rights. Furthermore, the complicity of the prison staff in the prisoners acts of subversion perpetuates the cycle of endemic corruption, which, in turn, undermines the notion that all are equal under the law, since the prison experience varies greatly depending on financial and social clout. The prison ultimately ceases to be an effective deterrent for some social strata. Bandyopadhyays work points to the central paradox of the reform agenda wherein creating spaces for inmate agency leads to the reconstruction of the social situations which led to the initial crime. Her dismissal of the potential of institutionalised reform in order to facilitate rehabilitation ignores inmates systematic deprivation of human rights.

Prison Agenda
The international impetus for prison reform has been influential in India in recent years.

The All-India Committee on Jail Reform (Mulla) Report, 1980-83 followed by the Expert Committee on Women Prisoners Report, 1986 made substantial recommendations for rehabilitation-focused prison administration. These recommendations have been adopted by state authorities to varying degrees.1 The Bureau of Police Research and Development has also drafted a National Policy on Prison Reform and Administration and a Model Prison Manual which has similarly been circulated to the relevant bodies.2 Despite these efforts, legislated reform remains sluggish and the Prisons Act, 1894 remains the sole federal regulation on prison administration. A lack of commitment to the reform issue at state and federal levels, a lack of structures for administrative and public accountability and endemic corruption at the sites of reform mean that the reform agenda is undermined and the inmates rights are often systematically denied. Bandyopadhyay suggests that the agenda of prison reform as articulated in the myriad reports and international thinking on the issue have failed to take into account the everyday realities of prison life. While the reports agree that a move from the deterrent motive of punishment to a rehabilitative and reformative disposition is essential for reforming the criminals, she wrote in an earlier article on the issue of reform, they do not clearly spell out the actual logistics of ensuring firm and positive discipline while safeguarding the human rights of the prisoners (Bandyopadhyay 2007: 407). Bandyopadhyay suggests that the focus on material improvements of prison conditions
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may not be the most effective method of rehabilitating prisoners, but rather that a sense of agency can act as the linkage between life within and outside the prison walls. It is this sense of continuity of agency and construction of meaningful worlds that Bandyopadhyay argues best facilitates rehabilitation. It is assumed, she wrote,
that a change in the physical conditions of prison life will automatically institutionalise reform as an objective of the prison. However, these changes do not necessarily imply changed administrative practices aimed at reforming the prisoner/criminal (ibid).

with individual cases of prisoners and a system of classification according to the nature of the crime.3 Bandyopadhyay finds that this flexibility and categorisation, as well rewards to be used as a positive reinforcement, are awarded to prisoners with social and financial influence, creating a hierarchy that mimics external social structures:
For those prisoners who were perceived as decent and sober and from good families, maintaining a good relationship with the officers was not a difficult task. Styles of dressing, talking and the general demeanour of the prisoners determines this perception. In the staffs view, the habitual; or professional criminals were the most difficult group. The prison, for them, was perceived as an extension of their criminal careers (p 15).

notion that this corrupt service provision, the withholding for legislated rights from some prisoners, that is desirable to the prison population obfuscates those at the bottom of the social hierarchy, for whom the process of negotiating relationships with warders means that their rights are systematically violated. Bandyopadhyay writes that
...this friendliness and sociability between the staff and the prisoners becomes one of the grounds for discrimination among prisoners. The prisoner community ceases to be a uniformly disadvantaged and controlled group (p 69).

From Bandyopadhyays observations at the prison, in fact, physical improvements did not facilitate administrative practices for reforming the prisoner, but rather facilitated spaces wherein prisoners could exercise some degree of agency.

Culture of Leniency
By privileging some prisoners, the prisoners create hierarchies that dissolve the idea of a homogeneous prison population. In this case, the dissolution is a result of the formal structure of rule, which called for dividing the prisoner community into gangs and appointing leaders or convict watchmen to control the gangs (ibid: 72). The recreation of external structures of hierarchy, Bandyopadhyay suggests, presents a continuity between life inside and outside the prison that facilitates the prisoners construction of meaningful worlds. It is the acts of subversion, and the constriction of hierarchies that replicate life outside of the prison walls that allow inmates to construct meaningful worlds through exercising some level of agency and control over their everyday existence. Since Bandyopadhyay argues that reform within the prison can only be effectively addressed when it evolves from the prisoners, she suggests that rehabilitation of the prisoner is best facilitated not by the mandatory uniform material provisions, but rather through the construction of interstitial spaces of negotiation afforded through a culture of leniency (Bandyopadhyay 2007: 410). Bandyopadhyay illuminates the ways in which the prison administrators are complicit in the inmates subversion of prison rules. Although the Prisons Act category disallows business or other dealings between the inmates and warders, corruption within the prison, in connivance with the staff, is common knowledge in the public discourse on prisons.4 Bandyopadhyays
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Provision of Privileges
Bandyopadhyay argues that the physical conditions incorporated into prison administration as a result of the reform agenda are treated as privileges by prison administrators.
The attempts to provide certain facilities, either material or non-material, to prisoners in the context of modernising trends in prison administration are very often translated as privileges to be granted prisoners at the behest of the authorities... Such arbitrariness is a useful technique for the efficient management of the prisoner population (p 284).

Power relations between prisoners and prison administrators are constituted by the exchange of services. Interestingly, Bandyopadhyay observes that prisoners are often willing to forgo rights for the provision of contraband services. Prisoners accepted certain unfair aspects of life in prison in spite of knowing that they could protest against them. In return, they had certain expectations from the system, which were fulfilled (Bandyopadhyay 2007: 396). According to Bandyopadhyay, this exchange of rights for subversive services restores prisoners sense of agency within the confines of the prison, undermining the sense of the prison as a totalising institution. Bandyopadhyay observes that the arbitrary provision of privileges is awarded in a hierarchical fashion. Various reform reports have recommended flexibility in dealing
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Warders interact with inmates in a mutually beneficial relationship, which is nevertheless at the discretion of the prison administrators. The warders participation in subversive activities for their own benefit further cements the culture of corruption prevalent in the Indian prison administration system. Warders who feel they can withhold privileges (rights) from inmates are unlikely to facilitate reform policies wherein rights are universally granted. This endemic corruption, which Bandyopadhyay takes for granted as a reality of the prison infrastructure, renders the reform agenda a highly ambitious endeavour as the prison administrators are unlikely to sacrifice the reward they regularly extract from their wards. The culture of leniency, thus, simultaneously allows prisoner agency and undermines the greater reform agenda. Bandyopadhyays argument that agency allows for rehabilitation is, therefore, short-sighted, and ignores the systemic problems that arise. Bandyopadhyay argues against the narrow interpretations of reform suggesting that
the idea of reform signifies the ability of a person to live a life that is both emotionally and physically based on free choice, which are made responsibly...It represents a life that is as close as possible to life outside of the prison walls, albeit in a narrow material sense (p 286).

Bandyopadhyay prioritises the element of free choice and continuity over the provision of basic material rights as the central referent of the agenda of reform. The replication of external hierarchies, however, can replicate the social scenario in which the initial crime occurred, thereby undermining the rehabilitation process.

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A deliberate muting of the prisons coercive and abnormal character and an exaggeration of similar characteristics in a relatively free space shows that prisoners did not wish to present the prison as a special kind of coercive institution, Bandyopadhyay points out. Instead, they reflected on the coercive elements of their lives both within and outside the prison. Through such reflection they normalised the prison experience, while at the same time presenting as abnormal the pre-prison experience. The normalisation of the prison experience and the normalisation of the coercive elements in outside life undermine the rehabilitation process. As prison hierarchies replicate the social reality of the outside, and prison experience becomes normalised, the hierarchical structures, corruption and subversion form a self-perpetuating cycle of continuity, undermining the possibility of rehabilitation.

Clinical Approach
Bandyopadhyays argument that the practice of prison reform follows a clinical approach to reform that does not account for the realities of prison life is a pertinent one. The proliferation of reform reports and the limited impact on the everyday existence of prisoners in India is a testimony to the fact that the reform agenda has not been pursued with the commitment required to make a meaningful change. Her argument, however, that the culture of leniency in the prison system creates a space in which prisoners can gain an agency and construct a meaningful world obscured the discrimination implicit in such a system, as well as the ways in which it cements further the culture of corruption amongst prison administrators. Bandyopadhyay admits that the prison system in a process of reform is rife with hierarchies, but fails to investigate the effects of the system on those at the bottom thereof. In the sense that the hierarchical nature of prison life points to continuity rather than a break from the outside suggests that those at the bottom of social hierarchy outside remain there on the inside, meaning their access to programmes of reform is limited by their inability to negotiate effectively with the power structures both within and outside the prison walls. These people are denied

even the minimum rights established in the reform programme. In the sense that incarceration serves as a deterrent, this sends a dangerous message to the community: those with money and education, and those who are aware of their rights serve a much milder punishment than people who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The reform agenda establishes that cases should be treated on an individual bases and the prisoners are not to be dehumanised while incarcerated.5 Yet, classification of prisoners inevitably establishes hierarchies. What needs to be implemented is a system of variegated approaches to prisoner classification that cements, and builds on, the minimum standards of incarceration. If flexibility and prisoner agency are to become incorporated in the prison administrations, the utensils for negotiation need to be privileges rather than right. Bandyopadhyays exploration of the element of choice as it functions in contemporary Indian prisons illuminates the ways in which the notion that everyone is equal under the law is undermined. Prison ceases to be an effective deterrent for the privileged few and a brutal experience for the socially disadvantaged. A meaningful reform in the prison system cannot occur until the prison administration operate fairly and in accordance with the letter of the law with regard to human rights. The Indian reform movement has been able to affect legislature, but not practise because of administrative corruption and lack of accountability. In her observation of prison life, Bandyopadhyay takes for granted administrative corruption and fails to recognise the ways in which the prisoners construction of meaningful worlds through acts of subversion perpetuate the cycle of corruption. While they need to take into account methods of allowing prisoner agency, reformist and administrators need to understand that prisoner rights are non-negotiable.
SAHRDC is South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, New Delhi.

Department of Prisons, Government of Karnataka, Report on Working of Prison Department: Achievements and Innovations, 2008. Available online at http://www.mysore.nic.in/dept_prison.htm. Bureau of Police Research and Development, Draft National Policy on Prison Reform and Administration. Available online at http://bprd.nic.in/writereaddata/linkimages/0534473971-National%20Policy% 20on%20Prison%20Reform%20and%20Correctional%20Administration%20Part%201.pdf. Penal Reform International, for example, recommend that at key points in the criminal justice procedure, assessments should take account of the nature of the offence and its impact on any victim, as well as the characteristics of the individual, including age, gender, nationality, mental and physical health, prior record, and any other contributing or mitigating factors, such as family and home circumstances, which might have an impact on the suitability of arrest or prosecution in the particular case. These types of considerations, and privileges bestowed accordingly, can feed into the culture of hierarchy and discrimination. See Prison Reform International, Making Policy and Laws That Work: A Handbook for Law and Policy Makers on Reform in Criminal Justice and Penal Legislation, Policy and Practice. London: Penal Reform International, 2010. Available at http://www.penalreform.org/publications/making-law-and-policy-work. For instance, Section 9 reads No officer of a prison shall sell or let, nor shall any person in trust for or employed by him, sell or let or derive any benefit from selling or letting, any article to any prisoner or have any money or other business dealings directly or indirectly with any prisoner. The Prisons Act (1849), Sections 9 and 10. Available online at www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/Prisons_act1894.pdf. Also Bandyopadhyay, Everyday Life in a P rison, 67. The Penal Reform International, a prison reform handbook, for instance, states that an individualised approach can help to address the factors that predispose people to offending behaviour and reduce the likelihood of re-offending. In practice, this means that at key points in the criminal justice procedure, assessments should take account of the nature of the offence and its impact on any victim, as well as the characteristics of the individual, including age, gender, nationality, mental and physical health, prior record, and any other contributing or mitigating factors, such as family and home circumstances, which might have an impact on the suitability of arrest or prosecution in the particular case. The report does not, however, make an explicit how flexibility and individualisation can be applied with consistency and without discrimination. Penal Reform International, Making Law and Policy That Work: A Handbook for Law and Policy Makers on Reforming Criminal Justice and Penal Legislation, Policy and Practice. London: Penal Reform International, 2010. Available online at http://www.penalreform.org/ publications/making-law-and-policy-work.

Bandyopadhyay, Mahuya (2007): Reform and Everyday Practice: Some Issues of Prison Governance, Contributions to Indian Sociology, Vol 41, 407.

available at

1 The Karnataka Prison Manual, for instance, states that the concept of Correction, Reformation and Rehabilitation has come to the foreground and the prison administrations are now expected to also function as curative and correctional centres,
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