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Stress on aptitude, skill of prison personnel

Special Correspondent
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Justice Chitra Venkataraman inaugurates National Conference on Best Prison Practices

Chitra Venkataraman, Judge, Madras High Court, speaking at the inaugural function of the National Conference on Best Prison Practices at the APCA in Vellore on Wednesday. Kuchanna Srinivasan, Additional DGP, Prisons (second from right), and M.Z. Khan, honorary president, Centre for Environment and Social Development, are in the picture. — Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan
Chitra Venkataraman, Judge, Madras High Court, speaking at the inaugural function of the National Conference on Best Prison Practices at the APCA in Vellore on Wednesday. Kuchanna Srinivasan, Additional DGP, Prisons (second from right), and M.Z. Khan, honorary president, Centre for Environment and Social Development, are in the picture. — Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan

Judge of the Madras High Court Justice Chitra Venkataraman has stressed the need for recruiting as prison officials candidates with the aptitude and skill to manage prisons with a focus on reforming and rehabilitating the prisoners in such a way that they were able to lead an honourable life after their discharge from prison.

She was inaugurating the National Conference on Best Prison Practices organised by the Academy of Prisons and Correctional Administration (APCA) here on Wednesday. Ms. Justice Venkataraman said that a combination of aptitude and skill was required of the prison personnel at a time when they had to tackle terrorists and economic offenders. Corporate fraud was a much more serious threat to society, and will have an evil impact on the system.

Previously, the prison authorities used to think of the type of facilities that need to be provided to the prison inmates. But now they were thinking of the type of training that needed to be given to the prison administrators so that they undertake the job of managing the prisons not only to be able to tackle such prisoners but also to reform and rehabilitate them.

Training

The Judge said that the reports of all commissions constituted to recommend prison reforms had focussed on training the prison staff to implement the Constitutional mandate to ensure the fundamental rights of the prisoners. Recalling the statement of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer that mere imprisonment did not sound the death knell of the fundamental rights of the prisoner, she said that experience had shown that imprisonment did not act as a deterrent to crime, as could be seen from the fact that many criminals became hardened after discharge.

So, the APCA should identify a rehabilitation strategy and reformation philosophy that would ensure that prisoners were accepted as normal citizens after their discharge from the prison. “Let every inmate feel that they are humans who are respected by society,” she said.

Kuchanna Srinivasan, Additional Director General of Police (Prisons), Karnataka and Member, Board of Management of APCA, who presided, stressed the need for bridging the gap between theory and practice in prison administration.

The practice of prison administration should be prisoner-centric, he said.

Overcrowded

M.Z. Khan, honorary president, Centre for Environment and Social Development, New Delhi said that there were 110 central prisons and 1,300 prisons in India. These prisons were overcrowded by 45 per cent. He therefore stressed the need for addressing this phenomenon.

Prisoners were sent to jail as a punishment and not for punishment. Professionalism in prison services was the need of the hour, he said.

M.R. Ahmed, Director, APCA, who welcomed the gathering, said that for making the prison system conducive to the achievement of the desired objectives of correctional administration, certain prerequisites should be ensured, which would constitute the foundation on which the Indian Prison System can be restructured.

One of these foundations can be identified through best practices being followed in various prisons in the country. APCA feels that there is a need to identify and understand the best practices that are being practised across the country.

This understanding would enable the officers to contribute more to the improvement of the living conditions in prisons, and thereby help the prison officers place correctional administration on sound footing, he said. A. Badrudeen, Deputy Director of APCA, proposed a vote of thanks.

Fifty-three prison officials ranging from assistant jailors to Additional Inspector-Generals of Prisons from 12 States are participating in the three-day conference, which is sponsored by the Bureau of Police Research and Development, New Delhi.

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