Prisoner reform in India

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Tanmaya Das explores the plight of inmates involved in the justice system

Everyone has a past, and I don’t want to waste time thinking about it or looking back. I have always found a way to improve my life and help others understand why they shouldn’t commit crimes and how they are affected. I always believed that persuading people with my words would help them make better life choices than falling into the traps of illegal and anti-social activity, ”said Aman (name changed), an ex-convict, who works now as a volunteer at the Turn Your Concern Into Action (TYCIA) foundation, Delhi.

Another ex-convict, Radha (name changed), could not sew while in prison; However, she took a sewing class during her stay and began her new life after being released. She now earns between $ 4,000 and 5,000 a month from her tailoring and dressmaking, which allows her to support her whole family.

People like Aman, Radha and others hope to achieve a set of goals in life, but we as an institution have failed to help them achieve their dreams.

Data from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) shows that the number of prisons nationwide increased from 1,339 to 1,350 in 2019. The number of people imprisoned rose from 4,66,084 in 2018 to 4,786,600 in 2019 ( on December 31 of each year). Uttar Pradesh has the largest prison capacity, accounting for 14.95% of total capacity, followed by Bihar (10.46%) and MP (7.1%). According to data published in 2019, there are 4,58,678 men and 19,913 women. The states with the most prisoners are Uttar Pradesh, followed by MP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Punjab and West Bengal. Several reasons such as illiteracy, ineffective laws and constitution in India, lack of parental care, drug use etc. contribute to increasing crime rates in India. Several prisons have denied basic human rights, resulting in mistreatment of detainees.

Gauri, who heads the area of ​​prison reform and rehabilitation at the TYCIA Foundation, said: “Inmates go through socio-emotional and psychological issues due to the lack of connection with families, especially in times of crisis. It was observed during the pandemic that they had little or no contact with their families, which resulted in stress, anxiety, and several psychological issues that impacted their overall well-being. “

She added: “Besides overcrowding issues, there is a lack of health facilities, recreational needs due to infrastructure and budget constraints. The quality of the relationships established with the prison authorities is directly linked to the type of opportunities they offer to a prisoner. Inside the prison, they reinforce and develop the skills that can support them inside the prison and on their release. Mental health, strengthening their well-being, their emotional and adversity quotient, and working on their soft skills are areas that are not addressed. In addition, there is a lack of pre-release preparation regarding their employment opportunities, acceptance by society, family and friends.

Likewise, Monika Dhawan, Director of the Vision India Foundation, said: “Many prisons in states like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are overcrowded due to high crime rates; however, the population of Uttar Pradesh is larger than that of Haryana, so it depends on the size of the state. As there are so few NGOs working in the field of prison reform, it is difficult for them to be successful. Prisons are always closed environments, it is up to the director or director general of the prison to invite NGOs to work inside the prison, so it is based on the invitation of the prison administration, this which is another difficult problem.

She added: “Another difficulty faced by NGOs is the administration of funds for the rehabilitation of prisons. There is no government support for NGOs that undertake prisoner reform programs. Corporate sectors occasionally help us with finances, which allows us to launch initiatives in the prison.

In addition to the logistical challenges of running a program inside the prison, such as misalignment of objectives with prison authorities, the dynamic nature of geography and lack of funds, managing a program to the exterior of the prison presents significant challenges. A clash between NGOs and the prison system was a serious obstacle. TYCIA Foundation Co-Founder and CEO, Saanchi, reveals: “The idea of ​​prison as a regulated environment, which promotes punishment as a disciplinary technique, can conflict with the value system of an organization. civil society organization that operates on empathy, self-reflection, and healing, thus the prison is seen as a correctional institute for rehabilitation. Plus, staying persistent, passionate, and not losing sight under difficult circumstances to make systematic changes can take years to move forward an inch.

Due to a lack of funding and official assistance, most NGOs find it difficult to implement prison reform programs. Many NGOs run rehabilitation programs with the help of corporate funding. Saanchi stressed, “The government must recognize NGOs who work as key actors and collaborators to bring about systemic change in prisons, while encouraging and encouraging the participation of NGOs working in various fields in prisons to bring relief and relief. resources through long-term interventions. The government must ensure the continuity of impactful programs in prisons, as the project-based approach and donor dependency are insufficient in prison settings.

While examining solutions and finding several ways the government can help NGOs, Monika noted, “I think the government should create a portal for NGOs working on prison reform, as such platforms can help them. to share knowledge and work with other NGOs there, allowing other NGOs to collaborate to work inside the prison. In addition, the government can sponsor NGOs, conduct credible background checks and provide them with funds to carry out reform initiatives. Regular training programs for prison staff should be implemented. More and more NGOs seem to be helping out, but the transformation requires a regular training program for prison officers. “

Many NGOs provide life skills training to help convicts return to normal life. However, many disadvantaged people, like Aman, find it difficult to get back on their feet. He explained: “It is difficult for detainees to find work once detainees are released, but many NGOs are working to help them in their efforts to find employment. Several NGOs work with other organizations to help ex-offenders find employment. As a result, the majority of NGOs wish to keep their ex-prisoners on board. The allowance or the salary they get from helping is not enough, but we manage our family in one way or another.

Rehabilitation of inmates helps reduce crime rates by creating a therapeutic atmosphere that includes gardening, meditation and spiritual wellness. To present a variety of jobs and skills that contribute to the development of an inmate’s personality and his ability to find work after release. “The prisoners will reform themselves through all the rehabilitation activities. Here, the term reform refers to cognitive, physical and emotional well-being, while skillfully using all of these components to reintegrate into society. When they gain a better understanding, they commit less crime because they have a different perspective and skills that will allow them to run and learn how to earn a living. So if you want to reduce the crime rate in India reform and welfare is essential for inmates. Monika expressed.

There are more than four lakhs in the prisons, and whoever is there will one day be released into society. As a result, we must work together to ensure that the people we release are reformers, otherwise we will see an increase in hostility and crime. As a result, the rehabilitation of prisoners is crucial and we must all work together to reduce the crime rate in India.


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