CHENNAI: The escape of 10 juveniles from an observation home at Kilpauk last night is the third such incident in the State in as many months where desperate juvenile delinquents have managed to flee from the homes.
Activists point out that recurrence of such incidents only proves that the juvenile delinquents see them as a prison and not as a “home”. This means failure in creating an atmosphere of reconciliation, conducive for the juveniles to reform themselves. While the apathy and inefficiency of the officials involved in juvenile justice contribute towards this, the juvenile delinquents being abandoned by their own families is another crucial factor.
“Majority of the juvenile delinquents arrested by the police are from the economically and socially disadvantaged communities. Their parents are not aware of the legal options available to them. They also lack the financial means to fight the case legally,” says A Narayanan, a social activist waging a legal battle for the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act in the State.
For many parents from the economically poor strata, visiting their child in the home even for a single day means loss of wages for that day. In most of the case of juvenile offenders escaping from the homes, meeting their parents remains the main reason as they are haunted by the feeling of being lonely.
Probing the escape of a group of juveniles from a home in Coimbatore, a report by the District Legal Services Authority found that it was an act of desperation as their parents had never visited them for months in the absence of any effort to release them on bail.
“In such cases, it is the responsibility of the probationary officer to contact and counsel the parents. The officers must also take proactive steps to counsel the juveniles and explore every possibility of reforming them. But there are large numbers of vacancies of probationary officers and even the existing officers are not qualified enough to handle such issues,” says Narayanan.
According to reports, the juvenile delinquents who recently escaped from an observation home in Madurai had said they escaped due to torture by another section of delinquents, which points to the failure of the officials in segregating the more hardened from others.
In contrast, juvenile delinquents from middle or upper class sections get adequate support from their parents and even manage to continue their studies leaving the bitter past behind. But in case of the socially and economically weaker sections, most of the juvenile delinquents suffer in the homes for months without getting a bail. For them, escaping from the home, which they clearly see as a prison, appears to be the only way to freedom!