The history of Jails department in Kerala begins with the formation of the State in 1956. Jails existed in Travancore - Cochin State and British Malabar State were reorganized and formed the Jail department. The first administration report of the Jails of Travancore state for 1862 and 1863 published during the period of Dewan Sir. T. Madhava Rao. According to this report there were the Principal Jail at Trivandrum (Fort) and the Divisional Jails at Quilon and Alleppey besides the Sub Jails attached to the District or Zilla Courts. The Principal Jail at Fort which was housed in the old barracks of Nair Brigade, established in 1861 upgraded to the status of Central Jail in 1873. This Jail was shifted to the present site at Poojappura in 1886. Industrial activities were started in the Central Prison in the same year by then Dewan Sir. T. Ramarao. Subsequently reforms intended to improve the condition of convicts were also introduced. In 1890, the ruler of the state sanctioned money grant to destitute prisoners during their release to enable them to reach homes. A separate block was constructed in Central Prison for female prisoners in 1904. Medical administration of the convicts was placed under the State Chief Medical Officer.

In Cochin, the Jails of improved type were started, along with the establishment of Zilla Courts, the Judges thereof exercising the control of these Jails. There were 2 Jails, one at Ernakulam and other at Trichur, besides a small Jail at Tripunithura, forming part of the Ernakulam Jail. In 1890 a Central Jail was established at Ernakulam and in order to improve the Jail administration, Mr. Robinson, a European Police Officer from British service was appointed as Superintendent in 1892. This Jail was shifted to Viyyur in 1914. Besides the Central Jail at Viyyur, there were 7 Sub Jails in Cochin, under trial prisoners and with one month and below were detained. All prisoners were kept in fetters throughout the period of the imprisonment. There was no remunerative industry of any kind. Convicts of Travancore and Cochin region were employed in extramural work such as sweeping and cleaning of public roads and public offices, palaces and the construction of roads. The Jails were then guarded by a detachment of British sepoys settled at Ernakulam and Trichur.

Central Prison Kannur, Special Sub Jail Kozhikode and 20 ordinary Sub Jails were existed in Malabar area under the Madras province, at the time of reorganization of Kerala state. Special Subjail Kozhikode which was established in the year 1861 is the oldest Jails in Kerala. This Jail was upgraded as District Jail in 1969. Central Prison Kannur, the 2nd oldest Jail in the state was established in 1869. The Malayalee inmates of the Borstal School, Palayamcottai were transferred and accommodated in the Quarantine block of the Central Prison, Kannur after the Quarantine Block was declared as Borstal School and Block was converted as Female Block to accommodate the Female prisoners transferred from Madras state.

The Jails and other establishments came under the Jail Department with the formation of the Kerala state are as follows:-

  • Office of the IG of Prisons Central Prisons Kannur, Viyyur and Thiruvananthapuram
  • Special Sub Jail, Kozhikode
  • A - class Sub Jails - 9 nos.
  • B - class /ordinary Sub Jails - 48 nos.
  • One Borstal school attached to Central Prison, Kannur.

After the formation of the state some of the Sub Jails abolished and new Jails were established. The first Open Jail of the state was established at Nettukalthery, Thiruvananthapuram in 1962 and first Women's Prison at Neyyattinkara in 1990. One more Open Jail was started in the state in 2007 at Cheemeni. One Women's Prison was established at Kannur in 2009 and another one at Thrissur in 2011. An Open Prison for Women were also started at Poojappura in 2013. First High Security Prison was established at Viyyur in 2019. Jail Training School was established at Poojappura in 1957 for imparting training to Jail staff. Later it was renamed as State Institute of Correctional Administration in the year 1988 and also started its Extention Centres at Thrissur and Kannur in 2010. In addition of the administration of jails, certain social welfare programmes of the 3rd and 4th Five Year Plans were implemented within Jail Department. Hence the control of Aftercare Homes, Rescue Home for disabled children, Care Homes, After care Shelters, Remand Homes, Probation and follow up Services, Rescue Shelters, Aftercare Shelters etc. were controlled by Prison Department until the Social Welfare department is formed and transferred the social welfare institutions to that department in 1975.

In 1953 a separate post of IG of Prisons was created and Shri. A.V. John, the seniormost Superintendents of the Central Prisons was appointed as IG of Prisons, till then, the Superintendent of Central Prison, Thiruvananthapuram was the ex-officio IG of Prisons. In 1981 regional set up was made appointing AIG of Prisons in Kozhikode and Thrissur. The Deputy Inspector General Prisons (HQ) was given the charge of southern range. The posts of AIG central and north zone were upgraded as DIG of Prisons in 2000. The Kerala Prisons Rules was framed under Indian Prisons Act 1894 and the Travancore - Cochin Prisons Act 1950, came into force on 26.8.1958. These Rules were repealed by Kerala Prisons and Correctional Services (Management) Rules 2014 which was framed under Kerala Prisons & Correctional Services (Management) Act 2010, enacted by the state imbibing the modern concept of Correctional Administration.