BENGALURU: When 120 convicts were released on Independence Day, for good conduct, many did not have money to buy a ticket home. Prisoners have savings, from their work in the jail, but they end up giving the earnings to their families or using it pay their court fines. With nothing to fall back on, it is difficult for them to start a new life.
This is when two NGOs, Prison Ministry India and Peacemakers, are most helpful. They are actively involved in the welfare of prisoners, even while they are serving their term, and their familes. This year, five volunteers from both NGOs counselled every convict released and understood his or her needs. Prisoners were also checked for mental and physical fitness.
Sister Adele from the Prison Ministry India, says, “Many of them had lost contact with their families because it has been years. We helped brige the gap by contacting their family members. We, in fact, got in touch with families of every convict, preparing them for their release.” Prisoners were received by families but many had no one waiting.
Both social organisations give financial aid. “Many do not have the money to travel to their homes,” says Sr Adele. “So we provided that... Now we’ll do a follow up and make sure that they have settled into their new lives.”
To help in such cases, for this August 15 release, the Prison Ministry had set aside Rs 1 lakh and Peacemakers, Rs 27,000.
There are other smaller emergencies. “Tuesday morning I got a call from a released convict, who had gone to live with her son at Vidyapeeta Circle,” says Sr Adele. “Her son was staying in a single room and his kitchen didn’t have enough provisions or utensils for cooking. The prisoner too had little money, so we gave her Rs 5,000.”
The social workers help prisoners while inside the jail too. “We are working with women prisoners and our focus is to develop their life skills and help with employment,” says Ceceilia Davis, Programme manager, Peace Makers. “We provide legal help to prisoners and support their families, particularly with educating their children.”
Some prisoners are not sure if they will be received by their families. “We assure them of shelter then,” says Davis. “But, most were able to go back with their families, because they received them at the jail.”
Eight of the released convicts had requested for shelter since they were not willing to go back to their homes. But, unexpectedly, relatives of six of them came the prisoners left with them.