Rehabilitate Prisoners, Give Them a Chance
Captivity is the worst stage of subservience; it is a curse. When the state is the captor, the captive loses all control over his personal life. A captive prisoner becomes a pawn in the hands of corrupt administrators. Often, instead of getting corrected, a good number of prisoners ‘upgrade’ their level of criminality due to close acquaintance with hardcore criminals in jail.
Though the prison population in the world has been growing, its content varies considerably between different nations. Out of a 10-million prison population in the world 23 per cent belong to the US, which is considered a developed democracy.
For one lakh population, the US has the highest number of prisoners (716). India is a country with one of the smallest prisoner populations — 30 per one lakh. China’s count is 121; Cuba is among the first six with 510.
The Russian federation occupies the 10th position with 475 people in prison out of one lakh. Interestingly, Pakistan and Bangladesh are among the last 20 with 39 and 42 respectively. Among the Indian States, Mizoram stands first with 80 prisoners per lakh.
Punjab counts 64, Haryana follows with 59, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh range between 40 and 45. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal count around 20 prisoners per one lakh population. In the recent past, the Indian prison administration has refined its concept of captivity. The crude pre-feudal crime and punishment mode, which still reigns even in the so-called developed democracies, has been offset in Indian prisons. Tihar jail, with 12,000 inmates, pioneered the rehabilitation programme that is replicated in several States.
Slowly, brand TJ has picked up. The baking, carpentry, weaving and tailoring schools make the jail an organised factory. They earn more than `30 crore a year. Maharashtra earns `35 crore and Andhra Pradesh is picking up with `5 crore.
Kerala prisons started the transformation late, but its pace of development was very quick. Jail Chappati gained popularity in the market as a brand providing quality at an affordable price. With 7,500 inmates, jail inspector-general Alexander Jacob claims Kerala jails have the highest per capita turnover. A prisoner earns more than `3,000 per month and the administration is thinking about investing the profit in more advanced manufacturing activities. Hotel owners book the trained cooks in jail at the time of their release.
Rubber planters get good tappers too. Soon ‘campus recruitment’ may take care of the prisoners after their tenure.
In the past half the prisoners released used to return to prison cells within one year, but now the number is as low as three or four. This is the real proof of the pudding. Punishment, for all practical purposes, was nothing but physical torture. It led to no results other than hardening the criminal.
When a captive succumbs to torture, the captor’s psyche consumes the crude joy of surrender but fails to understand his failure to win over the psyche of the captive. Surrender of the body is not a surrender of the mind, which can fly high and float beyond the cruellest prison walls.
The prison administration, which has achieved positive social results, deserves appreciation, but they have miles to go to establish a decent correction administration in our country. Interestingly, the change happened due to the proactive intervention of progressive officials. The political leadership has not yet taken up this task as they should.
Modern society has to learn the noblest ways of correction for those who land up in prison cells. The refined attitude towards the convicts is an indicator of the quality of the society which we live in.