In Assam, the concern for Jail Administration goes back to the period starting with the coming of the British East India Company in 1826. John M’Cosh in his “Topography of Assam”(1837) mentions the conditions in the jails of Gauhati and Goalpara in the year 1833.
Lord Macaulay, the first law Member in the Governor General’s Council was instrumental in appointing a Committee in the year 1836 to look into the conditions in Indian Prisons. The recommendations of the committee were largely influenced by the requirement of the British Raj yet it started a process for looking into the necessity of Jail Reforms.
This was followed by 3 more committees in 1846, 1877 and 1888-89 and the enactment of Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prisoners Act 1900 which even now form the main plank for examination of prisons administration in the country. The first Indian Jails Committee, 1919-20 also made important recommendations.
After “Prisons” was made the State subject under Government of India Act, 1935 most of the activities in this regard have been scattered depending on the initiative of different states. In 1951 Dr. W.C. Reckles who came to India under the United Nations Information Technical Assistance Programme made valuable suggestions in his report and the All India Jail Manual Committee 1957-59 prepared model Prisons Manual for adoption by different States. In Assam the first Jail Reforms Committee was set up in 1956 under Rev. JM Nichols Roy, followed by a number of legislation like Assam Prisons “Leave and Emergency Release” Rules, 1968, Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, Assam Borstal Institution Act, 1968, Assam Children Act, 1970 etc. These were followed by a number of Commissions, Committees, Working Groups- all aimed at Jail reforms and at providing minimum requirement of the inmates of jails.
The Prisons Directorate headed by the Inspector General of Prisons was established in the year 1966. The main function of the Prisons Directorate is to provide correctional administration by ensuring safe accommodation, hygiene, food, healthcare for the inmates with special focus on human rights and dignity, skill development, education and recreational activities for prisoners. The office of the Inspector General of Prisons was renamed in the year 2015 as the Assam Prison Headquarters in accordance with the provisions of the Assam Prisons Act, 2013.