Reform and rehabilitation

Increased public awareness coupled with media highlighting the state of prisons has led to demand by several non-governmental and welfare organisations to effect changes in the system. The Hindu spoke to some persons who have been connected in official capacity or otherwise with jails and elicited their views about violence against inmates, availability of food, clothing and medical facilities; prison for reformation and treatment of women.

Excerpts from the interaction:

Vishal Anand, Coordinator of Prison Programmes, Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, New Delhi has been working for prisoner reformation and post-release rehabilitation for nearly 20 years.

Till 2000 there was violence. In early 1990s the jails were opened to the community based organisation and NGOs to create a transformatory environment in prisons leading to reduction in violence. In Delhi it is negligible. In case of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan it is prevalent to a lesser extent but in Uttar Pradesh due to lack of transparency it continues. In Maharashtra which has high crime rate it is mixed. It all depends on the mindset of the jail officials.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (known as Tokyo Rules) have been adopted by most of the Indian prisons. Its implementation depends on the jail officials. A kind-hearted official ensures that the lower level staff too follows the prescribed rules.

It is reformative as imprisonment itself is a punishment for the criminal. The environment and ambience in jails have to be reformatory inculcating spirituality, education and teaching to the inmates. Vocational courses for jail inmates should be chosen based on whether the place in which the prison is located is the hub of that trade.

There is also an urgent need to have welfare personnel trained to handle the issues of prison and prisoners. This will go a long way.

Women inmates are treated well in Tihar (Asia's largest) and are kept in a separate jail. In jails which are less populated though there are no separate jails they are kept in a separate ward.

Ajay Agrawal who retired in 2004 as the Director-General of Prisons and was in-charge of Tihar Jail in the Capital.

The jail staff is not violent. They have to become strict at times while discipling prisoners who misbehave and are abusive. Also many of them along with corrupt jail officials indulge in extortion of soft targets. Also many a time there is a fight amongst the inmates on the basis of religion, caste and creed.

Tihar Jail has 85 doctors and boasts of excellent medical facilities. The food is wholesome and prepared in hygienic conditions. Also the library houses more than 50,000 books.

During my tenure I ensured transparency in Tihar by allowing journalists and NGO volunteers who played the role of eyes and ears of the public. To bring about attitudinal changes among the inmates and jail staff, everyone including me, undertook personal development programmes like the Art of Living and learnt Vipassana meditation. We try our best for reformation of the prisoners.

For lady prisoners we have special medical arrangements. They are taught beautician course and stitching ladies and gents’ garments.

Sunil Gupta, Law Officer and PRO, Tihar Jail.

There are isolated instances for which remedial action is taken promptly. One main reason is the increase in the prisoner population. Four years back we housed 10,000 prisoners in Tihar and and now it is 14,000 plus.

In Tihar 75 per cent are undertrials who can approach the court with their grievances. Further the nine jails and one semi-open jail are visited by Additional Sessions Judge who submits the report to High Court with a copy to Director-General, Prisons.

The objective of prison are three, i.e. reformation; rehabilitation and reintegration into the society. The first consists of meditation, yoga and prayers, counselling and other different methods. The second entails teaching the inmates different types of vocations, allowing them to pursue educational courses including post-graduation. Through the last we provide jobs through campus placements.

The special needs of women inmates are taken care of in Tihar. In fact, it is only jail in the country which is ISO certified.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 7:36:07 PM |

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