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Corrective measures in India

Punishment as a means to reform the offender was not considered as such during Hindu and Mughal period in India. During this period punishment was mainly based on deterrence. The recognized modes of punishment were death sentence, hanging, whipping, flogging, branding or starving to death. Prisons were considered to be places of torture. Treatment of prisoners was inhuman.

Prison reforms started in India from the British era. They made tremendous efforts for the reformation of Indian prisons and prisoners. They introduced radical changes in the then existing prison system. Sole purpose of sending a criminal to prison is to transform him into an honest and law abiding citizen. Jail enquiry committees in 1836 and 1862 expressed concern for the insanitary conditions of Indian prisons which resulted in deaths of the inmates.

As a result of the recommendations the three enquiry committees the Prison Act 1894 was enacted. It provided for better prison administration and the act provided for classification of prisoners and the sentence of whipping was abolished. Emphasis was also laid on safe custody of prisoners and under-trials but also on their reformation and rehabilitation in the society.

After independence a committee was for under Dr. W.C. Reckless, a technical expert of the United Nations on crime prevention and treatment of offenders, to make recommendations on prison reforms in 1951.

Some guidelines issued were:
  1. Correctional measures should form an integral part of the Home Department of each State.
  2. Probation and Parole should be used to reduce burden on prisons.
  3. State jail manuals should be revised periodically.

Why do we need corrective measures?
A person is not a born criminal. It is due to his association with bad company that often leads him into trouble. A person is always capable of reforming provided he sees his release in the society as a reward for it. If no such temptation is provided to accused persons, he will never try to reform himself and always languish in jails.

This often leads to overcrowding of prisons and serious health issues arise in the prisons. It is to be noted that the corrective methods are required for the accused persons and not for under-trials. A mechanism has to be prepared for separating under trials from convicts. Due to various corrective measures a convict can be reformed and be released in the society because it is always better to reform a convict than to punish a person who is already repenting for his wrongdoing. It is ultimately the fight against crime and not criminals.

Various corrective measures in India
Various corrective measures we have in India are open prisons, concept of parole, probation, prison labour etc.

Education in prisons are also provided for example:
  • Fundamental academic education designed to provide the intellectual tools needed in study and training, and in everyday life
  • Vocational education, designed to give training for an occupation.
  • Health education
  • Cultural education
  • Social education.

Service of educated inmates also provided a helpful hand to the prison authorities as well as to the society. After being released , they actively participate in the economic progress of the society. They prove to be useful subjects of the society.

Open prisons play an important role in the reformation of prisoners. Besides being less costly open prisons provide an advantage to the Government to utilize the capabilities of the inmates to a great extent. The monetary returns are positive and once put into operation, the open jails acquire financial self-sufficiency. Open prisons are also helpful in reducing the overcrowding of the prisons which is urgently required in the case of Indian prisons. Appreciating the concept of open prisons in India the Supreme court in the case of Ramamurthy v. State of Karnataka[1]held that:
 though open-air prisons, create their own problems which are basically of management, we are sure that these problems are not such which cannot be sorted out. For the greater good of the society, which consists in seeing that the inmates of a jail come out, not as a hardened criminal but as a reformed person, no managerial problem is insurmountable. So let more and more open air prisons be opened. To start with, this may be done at all the District Headquarters of the country�.

There are some states in India those have excelled in the concept of open prisons. Rajasthan is one of them. First state to adopt the concept of open prisons was Uttar Pradesh but now the state lags behind in implementing the concept. There are certain lapses in the concept of open prisons. As we all know that the reformative reforms are for convicts, the under trial population in our jails, being almost ¾ of the prison population is left out of these reforms.

Those who are not eligible for open prisons are:
  1. Dacoits
  2. Rapists
  3. Thieves

Usually those who are serving life imprisonment would be eligible for open prisons. Lesser check and lesser supervision is given in open prisons, often leads to the escaping of convicts. This in turn affects the scope of other convicts being granted the opportunity. It has been suggested by the Jail Reforms Committee that the criterion for booking prisoners to these open jails should not be long termers or short termers but the overall possibility of prisoner's propensity to reform and re socialize should be kept in mind for selecting the prisoners for open prisons.

Parole is a temporary release allowing the convict to spend some in the community. This in turn helps him to adjust to the normal social life outside the prison and it therefore, signifies the transitory phase from imprisonment to normal freedom. Parole is granted only on special grounds and allows the prisoner to live at liberty subject to the conditions which may be imposed by the parole order.

Violation of parole order may result in the cancellation of the order and the convict is sent back to the prison. Duration of parole spent by the convict is not counted in the duration of imprisonment. Parole is not a right and has to be earned by the convict. Parole is granted to those who are sentenced for imprisonment for more than 18 months.

The concept of parole is often confused with the concept of furlough granted to the prisoners to visit their families for short periods. It is a concept of military system. States like UP, Maharashtra contain provisions which deny furlough on the ground of public interest. Courts usually do not interfere in matters of furlough and parole, but if it amounts to violation of fundamental rights, courts can interfere.

The basic concept of these two is to keep the prisoners in contact with the society and his family which would not otherwise be possible in case of long imprisonment. The decision to release a prisoner on parole is taken by the Parole Board. The questions to be determined by the board are whether the convict has profited by his stay in the institution, whether he is so reformed that it is highly unlikely that he will commit another offence, his behavior in prison. But in reality not many prisoners are able to get the benefit of parole in India, because of the rigidity of parole rules and the apathy of police officers.

In Hiralal Mallick v. State of Bihar[2],the Supreme Court observed-
One method of reducing tension is by providing for vital links between the prisoners and his family. A prisoner insulated from the world becomes bestial and, if his family ties are snapped for long, becomes de-humanised. Therefore, we regard it as correctionally desirable that this appellant be granted parole and expect the authorities to give considerations to paroling out periodically prisoners, particularly of the present type, for reasonable spells, subject to sufficient safeguards ensuring their proper behavior outside and prompt return inside.�

The only problem I see with parole is that the decision taken by the board can be mala fide in some cases and they can be selective in their approach in choosing prisoners for parole.

The term probation is derived from Latin word 'probare' which means 'to test' or 'to prove'. Etimologically, probation means 'I prove my worth'. Homer S. Cunnings observed,  Probation is a matter of discipline and treatment. If probationers are carefully chosen and supervision work is performed with care and caution, it can work miracles in the field of rehabilitation. During probation, probationer lives in the society and spends his life under conditions imposed by the courts or other authority and is subject to supervision by the probationer officer.

The Supreme Court spelt out the object of the Probation of Offenders Act in the case of Ramji Missar v. State of Bihar[3] in the following words-
The purpose of the Act is to stop conversion of youthful offenders into stubborn criminals as a result of their association with hardened criminals of mature age in case of youthful offenders are sentenced to undergo imprisonment in jail. Modern criminal jurisprudence recognizes that no one is a born criminal. Although not much can be done for hardened criminals, yet a considerable emphasis has been laid on bringing about reform of young offenders not guilty of very serious offences by preventing their association with hardened criminals.�

In the concept of probation, the court orders no sentence but requires the offender to be under the supervision of a probation officer. The ultimate object of probation is to reclaim back the young and first time offenders who have fallen prey to bad company and gone astray and to make them social once again. Unlike parole, probation power is vested in the judiciary so that it does not become subject to extra judicial agencies and create serious problems as these agencies will be guided by their own value considerations. Sec 360 CrPC also provides for probation of offenders which has to be decided by the courts but it does not provide for any role for probation officers in assisting the Courts in relation to supervision and other matters. The Probation of Offenders Act does no distinction on the basis of age or sex as criminal procedure code and as such all offenders whether they are above the age of 21 or not can avail the benefit of the Act.

Moreover, the act does not merely deal with first time offenders but also those who are previously convicted and allows probation if it is proper to do so in the circumstances of the case including the character of the offender and nature of the offender. So we can see that the scope of the Act is much wider than the criminal procedure code. The report of the probation officer has to be taken into account by the court while granting probation except in case of sec 3 of the Act which provides unsupervised release after due admonition in offences like theft, cheating, or any offence punishable with imprisonment up to two years. Important factors in the report being the risk to the society if the person is released or whether the risk is worth taking, personality of the offender etc. It has been held by the Supreme Court in the case ofState of T.N. v. Kaliaperumal[4]that the provisions of the Act of 1958 and section 360 crpc will not be applicable in the matters of Prevention of Corruption Act.

The problem that lies in probation is that the offender can be released only on his entering into a bond with or without sureties. It is also necessary that the offender or his surety has a fixed place of adobe or regular occupation within the area of jurisdiction of the court. In India, many offenders are not in a position to give sureties or do not have fixed place of adobe or regular occupation. In such extreme cases should be brought under the ambit of sec 3 of the Act by providing release to the offender after admonition.

The social justice bench of the Supreme Court of India in the case of In Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons said-Prison reforms have been the subject matter of discussion and decisions rendered by this Court from time to time over the last 35 years. Unfortunately, even though Article 21 of the Constitution requires a life of dignity for all persons, little appears to have changed on the ground as far as prisoners are concerned and we are once again required to deal with issues relating to prisons in the country and their reform� said the Bench comprising of Justices Madan Lokur and R.K. Agarwal.

No society can be free of crimes. It's a myth. Crimes will be committed no matter how stringent the law will get. We cannot eliminate every criminal from the society. Reformative or corrective measures are therefore required to turn a criminal into a social being so that after his release he will contribute to the society in any way he can. Various governments are focusing on turning the manpower trapped in jails to their benefit in anyway they can. Innovative and useful methods are emerging due to the participation of various NGO'S, spirited citizens in this area of reformation of criminals. We should hate the crime and not the criminals. Corrective measures are a step towards this noble thought. We should pursue this effort even though there are some drawbacks in implementing them. Part of the government does not end by just by making a law but by seeing it implemented it in full spirit.

  • Ahmad Siddique- Criminology, Penology and Victimology
  • N.V. Paranjape- Criminology and Penology with Victimology

  1. (1997) 2 SCC 642 (659) para 50
  2. (1977)4 SCC 44:1977 SCC(Cri)538
  3. AIR 1963 SC 1088
  4. (2005)12 SCC 473:(2006)1 SCC(Cri) 615

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