CHENNAI: One in every 10 convicts in Tamil Nadu is a repeat offender. Or, in other words, of the nearly 2.46 lakh arrests made by the Tamil Nadu police in 2013, at least 10 per cent had returned to crime. The high figure of recidivism, repetition of an undesirable act after being penalised, has made Tamil Nadu one of the few states with a double-digit percentage in the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report on crime in India.
According to the report, of the 2,45,879 arrests made by Tamil Nadu police last year, 25,609 were those who had served jail time previously. Among them, 19,033 repeated a crime on one occasion and 5,302 twice. As many as 1,274 relapsed into crime on three or more occasions. In comparison, Kerala, which recorded 2,25,446 arrests in 2013, had only 1,649 convicts doing jail time for committing another crime, giving the neighbouring State a recidivism rate of 0.7 per cent. Andhra Pradesh has a higher percentage of recidivism at 12.60, while Karnataka has an impressive record of just 1.7 per cent. Astonishingly, Uttar Pradesh with 4,67,679 arrests in the previous year, the highest in the country, had a lowly 1.4 per cent of its convicts committing another crime.
Elaborating on the functions of a prison system, retired IPS officer R Nataraj, who as Director of Prisons introduced several reforms, said recidivism must be looked at from a multi-pronged angle. “The circumstances that force a person into crime in India are far different from those in developed nations. While crime is by choice there, in India the chief causes are illiteracy and poverty,” he said. “Recidivism rates are also affected by the penalty given to a convict and the environment they are exposed to in prisons,” he added.
Psychologists are of the opinion that there are a set of criminals who, no matter what, relapse into committing crimes once let free. “These are the ones with an anti-social personality disorder,” said P Thomas, former psychology professor at the University of Madras.
However, recidivism rates have been on the decline in the State over the last decade since it recorded 31.9 per cent in 2001, topping the charts.