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�Assam jails have not been able to reform inmates�

By AJIT PATOWARY
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GUWAHATI, June 11 - Jails in Assam have not been able to reform their inmates, particularly those facing long-term conviction, said Dr Shantanu Chakravarty, Head of the Department of Political Science, Cotton University. He attributed the above failure of the jail system to the fact that the jail system in the State is still suffering from a conflict between custody and treatment, that is � punishment and reform.

Talking to this correspondent, Dr Chakravarty said prisons stand at the tail end of the criminal justice system. Here the criminals are temporarily lodged. The modern theory of punishment that defines crime as a pathological problem, emphasises on corrective measures with a reformative zeal to deal with the convict during his incarceration. But, in the State and for that matter in India, prisons are still treated as the places to punish the wrongdoers.

The Prison Act of India was framed in 1894. Most of its provisions still continue to exist. In 1894, the prisons were not envisioned as reformative institutions, but as part of colonial coercion.

The reformative character of the jail system came to India in the post-Independence era, in a phased manner. The situation remained such that even in 1987, the Jail Manual of Assam used to include some of the coercive provisions of the 1894 Act.

The provision of delegating the jail superintendent the authority to grant some rights like the right to furlough, prison visiting etc., are also found to be subjective, and, hence, detrimental to the fulfillment of the objective of reform. Moreover, there is no provision to make the prisoners aware of their rights, he said.

Dr Chakravarty undertook a PhD study covering four jails, namely � Guwahati Central Jail, Tezpur Central Jail, Mangaldoi District Jail and Jorhat Open Jail � while conducting the study - �Sociological study of lifers in Assam,� findings of which have now been published in a book, titled The Second Sentence: A Tale of Lifers. The study was carried out under the guidance of Manirul Hussain, presently Professor at the Jamia Milia Islamia University Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research.

Dr Chakravarty said most of the lifer prisoners he had met, were suffering from self-mortification immediately after their entering the prison. But, gradually, they started adopting the prison environment.

Over 82 per cent of the lifers, ie., 82.7 per cent to be precise � covered under the study, identified absence of home and family life as the major cause of pain while in prison. All the lifers met were suffering from the apprehension of uncertainty about their post-release rehabilitation.

�It shows that the prison labour had neither an elevating character, nor was it productive for the State. It was not useful for the individual prisoners in their post-release life too. The educational and recreational schemes did not succeed in generating the necessary enthusiasm among the jail inmates. Thus the correctional methods failed by and large to create any positive perception among the prisoners on their post-release life,� said Dr Chakravarty, adding, the main objective of such labour should be facilitating rehabilitation to the prisoners in their post-release life.

Again, he said, in the area of social acceptance, the post-release job prospect of the lifers was found to be very bleak, as, of the 700 sample persons contacted, only 13.85 per cent were found to be positive towards recruiting such convicts.

Among the inmates of the high security prisons, while around 71 per cent were certain that their families would accept them, 1.23 per cent were determined not to return home and 27.78 per cent, who were in their early stage of detention, were indecisive on such matters.

Evidently, contrary to the above situation in the high security prisons, the re-socialisation process of the 38 lifers met at the Jorhat Open Air Jail, was found to be very positive. This jail was found making the rehabilitation process easier, he said.

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�Assam jails have not been able to reform inmates�

GUWAHATI, June 11 - Jails in Assam have not been able to reform their inmates, particularly those facing long-term conviction, said Dr Shantanu Chakravarty, Head of the Department of Political Science, Cotton University. He attributed the above failure of the jail system to the fact that the jail system in the State is still suffering from a conflict between custody and treatment, that is � punishment and reform.

Talking to this correspondent, Dr Chakravarty said prisons stand at the tail end of the criminal justice system. Here the criminals are temporarily lodged. The modern theory of punishment that defines crime as a pathological problem, emphasises on corrective measures with a reformative zeal to deal with the convict during his incarceration. But, in the State and for that matter in India, prisons are still treated as the places to punish the wrongdoers.

The Prison Act of India was framed in 1894. Most of its provisions still continue to exist. In 1894, the prisons were not envisioned as reformative institutions, but as part of colonial coercion.

The reformative character of the jail system came to India in the post-Independence era, in a phased manner. The situation remained such that even in 1987, the Jail Manual of Assam used to include some of the coercive provisions of the 1894 Act.

The provision of delegating the jail superintendent the authority to grant some rights like the right to furlough, prison visiting etc., are also found to be subjective, and, hence, detrimental to the fulfillment of the objective of reform. Moreover, there is no provision to make the prisoners aware of their rights, he said.

Dr Chakravarty undertook a PhD study covering four jails, namely � Guwahati Central Jail, Tezpur Central Jail, Mangaldoi District Jail and Jorhat Open Jail � while conducting the study - �Sociological study of lifers in Assam,� findings of which have now been published in a book, titled The Second Sentence: A Tale of Lifers. The study was carried out under the guidance of Manirul Hussain, presently Professor at the Jamia Milia Islamia University Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research.

Dr Chakravarty said most of the lifer prisoners he had met, were suffering from self-mortification immediately after their entering the prison. But, gradually, they started adopting the prison environment.

Over 82 per cent of the lifers, ie., 82.7 per cent to be precise � covered under the study, identified absence of home and family life as the major cause of pain while in prison. All the lifers met were suffering from the apprehension of uncertainty about their post-release rehabilitation.

�It shows that the prison labour had neither an elevating character, nor was it productive for the State. It was not useful for the individual prisoners in their post-release life too. The educational and recreational schemes did not succeed in generating the necessary enthusiasm among the jail inmates. Thus the correctional methods failed by and large to create any positive perception among the prisoners on their post-release life,� said Dr Chakravarty, adding, the main objective of such labour should be facilitating rehabilitation to the prisoners in their post-release life.

Again, he said, in the area of social acceptance, the post-release job prospect of the lifers was found to be very bleak, as, of the 700 sample persons contacted, only 13.85 per cent were found to be positive towards recruiting such convicts.

Among the inmates of the high security prisons, while around 71 per cent were certain that their families would accept them, 1.23 per cent were determined not to return home and 27.78 per cent, who were in their early stage of detention, were indecisive on such matters.

Evidently, contrary to the above situation in the high security prisons, the re-socialisation process of the 38 lifers met at the Jorhat Open Air Jail, was found to be very positive. This jail was found making the rehabilitation process easier, he said.