A day after three inmates of the Special Home, Poojappura, escaped from the reformatory, the police are yet to get any clue on them. It was on Monday, around 6.30 pm, amidst the Christmas celebrations held at the Children’s Home and Special Home, that the three inmates - aged between 14 and 16 - did an escape act.
While the Special Home superintendent was not available for comment, Poojappura police said that they have alerted the stations in the hometowns of the three kids - Kumily, Valapattanam and Madapally - about the missing of the boys.
The inmates had twisted the window bars in the bathroom to escape from the place. According to police, the three juveniles in conflict with law were shifted to the Special Home almost a year ago. There were only four inmates in the Special Home in total.
The escape of the inmates has once again brought to limelight the shoddy state of affairs in the Special Home and the fact that many proposals suggesting reforms in the functioning of the Children’s Home and Special Home have gone moth-eaten in recent years. One of the main proposals, that of shifting the Special, Children’s and Observation Homes from Poojappura to Nettukaltheri Open Prison, so that children could be rehabilitated positively, has been neglected.
Social activists have time and again pointed out that the Special Home must not be considered a place to lock up the children. Even the Juvenile Justice Act has put it down clearly that the place should be a reformative place for them. However, as of now, no therapeutic or engaging activities are in place for the inmates. And the children spend years locked up inside a small room most of the time.
‘’Where adults are sent to a prison with so many engaging activities, the children are put to rust. There is no individual care plan implemented for the inmates, which is prescribed by the Act. It is natural that the children will crave to breathe some fresh air and so they escape,’’ said a former official associated with the Special Home.
The post of the district probation officer is lying vacant for months now. The Juvenile Justice Board is the authority to devise plans for the betterment of the inmates. The Child Welfare Committee (CWC), an equivalent body that attaches itself to the functioning of the Children’s Home, is only making plans. ‘’It is true that the children get only the service of a part-time psychologist. It should be a joint effort to study their cases and provide them mental ventilation. Though they are not allowed to go outside, their freedom is not entirely restricted,’’ said A Sheela, CWC member. She added that a proposal to introduce interesting activities for the inmates are being worked out.
However, social activists point out that psychologists or case workers are not the solution. The children need a space where they are engaged in some skill development or are sent to school or at least given training in their aptitudes. A locked up room would only create more frustrated souls who would try every second to break the barrier, they say.