Rehabilitate Prisoners, Give Them a Chance

Captivity is the worst stage of subservience; it is a curse. When the state is the captor,

Published: 01st December 2013 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th November 2013 12:09 PM   |  A+A-

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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. Captive as a 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 the jail.

Though the prison population in the world has been growing, its content varies considerably between different nations. Out of 10 million prison population in the world, 23 per cent belong to the US, which is considered a developed democracy. In one lakh population, the US has the highest number of prisoners (716). India is one of the countries with the least prisoner population—30 per one lakh. China’s count is 121; Cuba is among the first six with 510.

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 ranges 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, having 12,000 inmates, pioneered the rehabilitation programme which is replicated in several other states. Slowly, the brand TJ’s picked up. The baking school, carpentry, weaving and tailoring 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 for quality at affordable price. With 7,500 inmates, jail inspector-general Alexander Jacob claims Kerala jails make the highest per capita turnover. A prisoner earns more than `3,000 per month and the

administration is thinking about sharing the profit in more advanced manufacturing activities. Hotel owners book the trained cooks in the 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 of the prisoners released used to return to prison cells within one year, but now it is as low as three or four. This is the real taste 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 the torture, the captor’s psyche consumes crude joy of surrender but fails to understand his failure in winning over the psyche of the captive. Surrender of body is not a surrender of mind which can fly high and float beyond the cruellest prison walls. 

The prison administration which has made positive social results deserves appreciation, but they have miles to go for having 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 had to. 

Modern society has to learn the noblest ways of correction of 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. cpjohn.kerala@gmail.com

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