HYDERABAD: The lone Borstal school run by the Telangana State Prisons department - in Nizamabad - at present has only one inmate, as against the capacity of 93 juveniles in conflict with law. Borstal schools are corrective institution for adolescent offenders aged between 16 and 21 as per the AP Borstal School Act, 1925.
With 19 inmates in 2007, to the present one, a decline in occupancy has been the trend for a decade now. While it is clearly the court’s prerogative to sentence a first time young offender to a Borstal school, jails across TS continue to brim with offenders (under 21) who are lodged in what are called ‘Bachcha Barracks”. The Central prisons of Cherlapally and Chanchalguda in Hyderabad house around 100 to 120 youngsters based on court’s sentence.
How the school functions
An adolescent offender detained in Borstal school should have been awarded at least a two-year sentence and whatever be the crime, he/she must be released by the time they turn 23. This apart, inmates from Borstal school are not barred from securing a government job. However, the offenders lose out on all these advantages as they are sentenced to regular jails.
“Offenders who are under-18 years are tried in Juvenile courts and sent to special juvenile homes. Above 18 year old offenders are tried in regular courts and it is up to the court where the offender should be lodged. For better utilisation of the existing Borstal school, we had proposed its shifting to Hyderabad a couple of years ago but nothing has come our way,” said VK Singh, director general, TS Prisons.
Not enough manpower at Nizamabad Borstal school
Spread across merely an acre, the Nizamabad Borstal School has four barracks, each with a capacity of 20 inmates, and a small extension apart from classrooms and workstation.
The maximum sentence for a convict is two years, after which he is to be released. Inmates are to be given regular classes and some vocational training in electrical works, carpentry, plumbing etc. “We do not have enough manpower, instructors or psychological counselors there in our Borstal school at present,” said Singh.
“In case of juvenile offenders, they request court to not send them to Borstal schools. In the process, special juvenile homes have been able to replicate the vision of Borstal schools,” said Ettavoni Manjusha, a legal-aid panel advocate for juveniles.
She also referred to instances where juveniles have been tried in regular courts. “It does happen. Due to multiple factors, police sometimes show a 17-year-old as a 21-year-old and produce him in regular court,” she said.
A retired prison department official, on condition of anonymity, added that judicial officers are not keen in detaining a young offender in Borstal school. “In most petty cases, youngsters would be remanded for a year during the trial and rest of the sentence would be less than 2 years. So they would not be sent to Borstal school,” he added.