Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Need for Prison Reforms

When we think of prisons we generally think of a high four walled structure fenced properly and manned my guards atop the watch tower. For those of us who has seen prisons only in movies tend to think of it as spacious place where food stinks but the inmates are hardened criminals. Surprisingly this perception is not true. The prisons are spacious neither are they full of convicted criminals. Most of the prisoners in India are those awaiting trial that basically means they are not convicted criminal. According to one research this amounts to around to 70% of the prison population. But these are poor people with no legal representation and hence the possibility of a status change right now seems very remote. Prisons were supposed to be one place where corrective actions were to be taken so that people who have been imprisoned, when they come out are able to live normal and happy life. But contrary to the purpose, it is performing just the reverse. Those who have been to prison are found to have paid several visits time and again. We cannot blame them either. Persons who have been to prisons, when they come out are treated differentially and nobody wants to give them a job. Unable to find a means of livelihood it is very easy for them to walk down the same path .As always the system is not without flaws . Apart from a large no of people waiting trial, inmates convicted for petty crimes(such as pretty theft) are placed along with lifers, murderers and rapists. Though I am not saying they are not good guys but i do want to say that such prisoners should not be imprisoned with the more seasoned ones as i am sure it does not have any good influence on them. Then there is this problem of overcrowded cells. Cells designed for one inmate are forced to have three since there is no space and the irony is that they are still under trial victims. The jails seem to be full of persons who should not have been in there in the first place. The judiciary system is so slow that most convict spend more time in jail awaiting trial then they could have been possibly sentenced for.

But none of it is going to change. This is because we continue to run jails by an arcane law designed by British a century ago. Just think of it, the last prison reforms came in 1920 and no further reform has been made despite recommendations from several committees and that also includes the top judiciary. The reason may be that these people don’t get to vote or they are not a part of voting banks the politician woo. State has enough money to waiver 60,000 crores of loan(which I still feel was an immoral thing to do) but they have neither the time nor the inclination to improve life of may be more than 2,00,000 people. To try to improve the life of this people wont take much. All they have to do is speed up the judicial process, set up may be some courts and promote some of the lawyers to the post of judges and oversee those cases that are awaiting trials. This is one leg of solution, another include introduction of some crafts or may be computer education or a literary program that might help them earn when they get out of prison and live a dignified life. The drama troupe in Berhampore jail is a case in point where some inmates are performing platy of Rabindra Nath Tagore. With some luck they might be performing outside jail walls in some time and possibly lead a normal life when they get out.

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