The treatment of offenders in open conditions similar to outside world as far as possible, found wide acceptance in several countries. This is indeed a significant contribution to the development of progressive penology and a professional approach to treatment of offenders at the international plane.
The subject of open-institutions was particularly discussed in the First United Nation Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders held in Geneva in 1955. The consensus was that minimum security such as absence of prison walls, bars, fence, armed guards, gun towers, and voluntary discipline among the prisoners should be the two guiding principles underlying the working of these open institutions.
The system of open prisons was essentially founded on trust and confidence reposed in prisoners and was an intermediary stage between the guarded prison life and the outside life of complete freedom. Five years later, when the Second U.N. Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders was held in London in 1960, open-institutions had become an integral part of Anglo-American prison system for the correctional treatment of offenders. The prisoners were allowed to attend their ailing relatives and friends and women delinquents were extended certain additional facilities and maternity privileges.
Experience has shown that Prisonisation may be appropriate only for certain categories of offenders, but it may produce deleterious effects on several others and instead of becoming useful citizens, they may become tough and frustrated criminals with rather enhanced propensity for crime. Therefore, ‘minimum security’ arrangement such as open or semi-open prisons, half-way houses, work release and other semi-institutional methods of treatment have been found far more useful for such offenders.
Thus, open prisons have universally been accepted as viable alternative to imprisonment. The object of such a mid-way arrangement between incarceration and complete freedom, is to enable the prisoner to maintain contact with outside world and reconstruct his life pattern through inter-personal relationship with the fellow inmates and the members of society.