KOCHI: John (name changed), 56, a resident of Kochi, was sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with a murder case in 1998. When he was released from jail two years ago, John struggled to survive as the society was not ready to accept him. He found it difficult to face even family members. Friends distanced themselves from him and nobody was ready to give him a job.
That was when the Social Justice Department came to his rescue. The officials convinced his family members that he was a refined man and they accepted him. Under the Nervazhi programme, an initiative to ensure social rehabilitation of probationers and ex-convicts, the department got him employed at a private firm. A happy man these days, John is trying to renew his driving licence so that he can work as a driver.
Ex-convicts leave the prison after paying the price for their wrongdoing. But the social stigma continues to build barriers in society. Once a jailbird, they are branded forever as criminals. For many, life after prison is a bitter battle for survival. With no resources or social support, many of them are forced to return to the world of crimes.
For them, the Social Justice Department’s Nervazhi programme is a beacon of hope. It helps them fight the social stigma and merge into the society.
Anish (name changed), a native of Kothamangalam, was caught in a drug peddling case when he was a Plus Two student. He dropped out of school and had to serve a 90-day jail term as he was aged 18. But the world around him changed a lot when he returned from jail. His friends were not ready to accept him and he couldn’t return to his studies.
Two years on, Anish is lucky to earn a living working as a daily wage employee in a private firm. He is planning to complete his studies and preparing for the PSC exam. The Nervazhi scheme has helped him survive the ostracism.
The programme has turned out to be a boon for hundreds of ex-convicts in the state. As per official records, the scheme has transformed the lives of 323 persons in the state. The highest number of beneficiaries is in Kollam district at 51. While Thiruvananthapuram district has 37, Alappuzha (30), Malappuram (29) and Wayanad (29) are the other top districts.
“Nervazhi scheme was launched by the department in 2017. The programme is designed to exist for long years to yield a good result in transforming ex-convicts and offenders,” said SJD special officer KK Subair. According to the officials, the programme also aims at bringing down crowding in jails and enhancing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
In Ernakulam, the officials intervened in 80 cases. Of these, 38 persons are in the age group of 18-21 years, 37 in 18-25 age bracket and five are above 25 years.
“The programme aims to provide employment and thereby engage them. Once they get engaged, they will naturally keep away from criminal activities,” said Arjun Nair, probation assistant.