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Challenges Faced By The Criminal Justice System In The Process Of Reformation Of Criminals

This article deals with the challenges faced by the criminal justice system of india in the process of reformation of criminals by defining the organs of the criminal justice system, providing with current laws governing such system, and then the article explains the challenges faced by the criminal justice system with reference to case laws and then it speaks about how other nations dealing with those challenges and then the article concludes by giving somesuggestions to overcome such challenges based on evidence

Criminal justice system is the factor responsible for maintaining a society's peace by keeping the law and order incontrol ,by punishing the criminals and safeguarding the innocents in a society ,the criminal justice system consist of three main parts which are as follows:
  • Law enforcement agencies ,usually the police departments
  • Judicial system including the courts ,prosecution and defense lawyers
  • Agencies for detaining and supervising the criminals or offenders such as prison and probation agencies
When Ben Whishaw states that:
The criminal justice system, like any system designed by human beings, clearly has its flaws."(2),he states the mistakes or areas which are left over with no recognition has certain impacts over thesociety where the burden comes back to the hands of the criminal justice system.

Also Eliot Spitzer states that:
Our criminal justice system is fallible..."(3),here fallible means theIndian criminal justice system mainly focus on punishing the criminals rather than the process of reformation. Similarto the above words this article addresses the challenges faced by the Indian criminal justice system in the process of reformationof criminals

What is the Criminal Justice System?
  • The criminal justice system is the set of laws, processes, and institutions that aim to prevent, detect, prosecute, and punish crimes, while ensuring the rights and safety of all people.
  • It includes institutions like police forces, judicial institutions, legislative bodies, and other supportive organizations like forensic and investigation agencies(4)
  • Reformation: Nelson Mandela states that "Reformation does not mean sitting and waiting for the storm to pass. It means learning how to dance in the rain."(5) Reformation, in the context of criminal justice, refers to the process of transforming individuals involved in criminal activities into law-abiding citizens through rehabilitation, education, and support programs. The aim of reformation is not only topunish offenders but also to address the underlying factors contributing to their criminal behavior andfacilitate their successful re locating them into society.
  • Recidivism: Recidivism refers to the habit of individuals who have previously been convicted of a crime to reoffend or return to criminal behavior after release from completion of a punishment given to him. High recidivism rates indicate the failure of rehabilitation efforts and highlight the need for more effectiveinterventions to prevent repeat offenses.
  • Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation includes programs and interventions aimed at addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior and promoting positive change in offenders. This may include educational opportunities, vocational training, substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, angermanagement, and social skills development. The goal of rehabilitation is to equip individuals with the tools and support they need to lead productive and law- abiding lives upon release from prison orcompletion of their sentence.
  • Restorative Justice: Restorative justice is an alternative approach to traditional criminal justice that focuses on repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior and restoring relationships between offenders,victims, and the community. Rather than punitive measures, restorative justice emphasizes accountability, restitution, and reconciliation. This may involve mediation, victim-offender dialogue, community service, and other restorative practices aimed at healing the harm caused by crime and preventing future offenses.
  • Probation: Probation can be defined as the release of the offender, from police custody, subject to the good behavior of the convicted offender under specific conditions. It is considered as the supervision period, in which the offender has to follow certain rules prescribed by the court, under the supervision of theprobation officer. A person is granted probation when he is found guilty for commission of an offense, in which the accused is not sent to jail rather he is allowed to stay in the community, provided that he adopts ethical conduct and not commit any crime in future, or else he will be sent to jail. The condition of probation differs regarding the accused and the criminal offense, which encompasses community service, fines, reporting to a probationary officer, restriction on consumption of drugs and alcohol, counseling, jailtime and so forth.
  • Parole: parole is meant the grant of release to the convict, only when he has served a part of his punishmentin jail. In this, the prisoner is temporarily or permanently released from the jail, subject to the conditions set forth by the parole board. These conditions ensure the safety of the members of the society include appearing before the parole officer whenever needed, obeying the law, restriction on the consumption of alcohol or drugs, avoidingcontact with certain people, restriction on leaving the specified geographical area without the permission of the officer, getting employment and so forth. While on parole, the convicts are not considered as free from their sentence, rather they have to serve the community and rehabilitate themselves and comply with the rules specified, or else they will be sent back to jail on the grounds of the original sentence.(6)

Indian Laws
Laws with relation to the reformation of criminals in india includes the following:

The Constitution Of India 1950
  • Article 72: It gives power to the president of India to pardon a wrongdoer
  • Article 161: It states about the pardoning power of the governor
The President may exercise his pardoning powers in the following cases:
  • When he is evaluating a case of punishment against an individual who has violated a union law,
  • When he is evaluating a case of punishment imposed by a court-martial or military court,
  • When he is contemplating the death penalty.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
The ideology of dealing with delinquent children is among the most crucial components of the act. The Act's goal is to restore children and make them capable members of the community. This is demonstrated by the fact that children underthe age of 18 (16 in the case of heinous crimes) who commit a crime are termed delinquents rather than criminals.

Some of the main features that represent the Juvenile Justice Act's restorative nature are as follows:

Juvenile Justice Act:

  • Section 14: Even though the crime committed by the child is non-bailable, the Board, under the Juvenile Justice Act, may discharge the child on bail or put the child under the mentorship of a probation officer.
  • Section 18: If a child younger than the age of 16 is convicted of a crime, the Board under the Juvenile Justice Act may order counseling services or community work or a fine (parents to pay) or discharge the child on probation or send him to a special home for a maximum of three years. Furthermore, the Board has the authority to direct the delinquent child to access education, vocational courses, a therapeutic facility, or de-addiction programs.
  • Section 21: No child shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or death.
  • Section 40: The goal of a child care centre under the Juvenile Justice Act ought to be the transformation of children.
  • Section 74: The Juvenile Justice Act also bars the disclosure of the child's identity in the press in any form. The police are also prohibited from disclosing any information concerning the child except to the Board in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act and only in the best interests of the child.
As a result, the Juvenile Justice Act was enacted to ensure the rehabilitation of delinquent children. It reflects the reformist strategy of the Indian penal system.

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973:

  • Section 27 states that any crime not punishable with life imprisonment or death if committed by any individual who is below the age of sixteen on the day he appears or is introduced before the court may be tried by the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate or by any court particularly authorized under the or any other legislation in force for the time being providing for the treatment, mentoring, and rehabilitative services of youth.
  • Section 360 enables the court to grant discharge on probation on good behavior or after admonition.
  • Section 432 says that the government has statutory power under this section that whenever an individual is convicted of any punishment, the government can suspend or remit the punishment in entirety or in proportion at any period.
  • Section 433 enables the government to commute or change the punishment of the offender from:
    • a death sentence to any other form of punishment;
    • life imprisonment to imprisonment not exceeding 14 years;
    • rigorous imprisonment to simple imprisonment.

The Indian Penal Code 1860:

  • Section 54 of the Indian Penal Code allows for the commutation of the death penalty to any other form of punishment
  • Section 55 of the Indian Penal Code allows for the commutation of a life sentence of 14 years in prison.

The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958
  • Section 4 addresses the discharge of a wrongdoer because of his or her good behavior.the act does notapply if the offender is convicted of an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment.
Challenges Faced By The Criminal Justice System
Lack of Resources and Funding for Rehabilitation Programs:
Rehabilitation programs within correctional facilities and in the community often suffer from insufficient funding and resources. This limits the availability and quality of services such as education, vocational training, mental health treatment, and substance abuse counseling, hindering efforts to address the underlying causes of criminalbehavior.

Stigma and Discrimination Against Ex-Convicts:
Ex-convicts often face stigma and discrimination when attempting to reintegrate into society. Negative attitudes fromemployers, landlords, and community members can create barriers to employment, housing, and social support, leading to social exclusion and increased likelihood of reoffending.

Inadequate Support Systems for Transitioning from Prison to Society:
Individuals transitioning from prison to society often lack adequate support systems to help them navigate the challenges of reintegration. Limited access to housing, employment assistance, healthcare, and social services can leave ex-offenders vulnerable to homelessness, unemployment, and recidivism

High Rates of Recidivism Due to Ineffective Rehabilitation Methods:
Despite efforts to rehabilitate offenders, many rehabilitation programs fail to effectively address the root causes of criminal behavior. Inadequate programming, lack of individualized treatment plans, and limited follow-up support contribute to high rates of recidivism, perpetuating the cycle of crime and incarceration.

Institutional Barriers Within the Criminal Justice System:
The criminal justice system itself can pose barriers to reformation. Mandatory sentencing laws, zero-tolerance policies, and limited discretion for judges may prioritize punishment over rehabilitation, leading to harsh sentences and limitedopportunities for reintegration.

Cultural and Societal Attitudes Towards Punishment Versus Rehabilitation:
Deep-seated cultural and societal attitudes towards punishment versus rehabilitation shape public perceptions and policy decisions within the criminal justice system. Prevailing beliefs about the efficacy of punitive measures and skepticism towards rehabilitation can undermine efforts to implement evidence-based reformation strategies.

As a former head of the police force (DGP & IGP) of Karnataka. I find that the system mostly works for the benefit of the rich and the powerful, and not for the innocent victim or the cause of justice(8)

Other than these factors the societal stigma also lies as a challenge in the process of reformation ofcriminals which are as follows:
  • Negative stigma in a society: Society often views individuals with a criminal record as a danger, untrustworthy, or morally deficient. This negative perception can lead to social rejection and exclusion from various aspects of community life.
  • Limited Opportunities: Ex-convicts may face significant barriers to employment, housing, education, and social services due to societal stigma. Many employers, landlords, and educational institutions discriminate against individuals with criminal records, making it difficult for them to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society.
  • Impact on Families and Communities: Societal stigma doesn't just affect individuals with criminal records; it also impacts their families and communities. Family members may experience shame, guilt, and social isolation due to their loved one's involvement in the criminal justice system. Entire communities may face stigma and discrimination based on their association with high-crime neighborhoods or populations with higher rates of criminals.
  • Cycle of Recidivism: Societal stigma can perpetuate a cycle of recidivism by creating barriers to reintegration and pushing individuals back into criminal behavior. When ex-convicts are unable to secure stable employment, housing, or support networks, they may resort to illegal activities as a means of survival or to cope with feelings of rejection and hopelessness.
  • Intersectional Stigma: Societal stigma intersects with other forms of discrimination, such as racism, classism, and sexism, exacerbating the challenges faced by marginalized individuals within the criminal justice system. For example, people of color and individuals from low-income communities may experience heightened stigma and face additional barriers to reintegration due to systemic inequalities and biases.

What are the Issues in the Current Criminal Justice System of India?
  • Pendency of Cases: According to the National Judicial Data Grid, there are over 4.7 crore cases pending in Indian courts across different levels of the judiciary. This leads to delays in justice delivery, violation of the right to speedy trial, and loss of public trust in the system.
  • Lack of Resources and Infrastructure: The criminal justice system suffers from inadequate funding, manpower, and facilities. There is a shortage of judges, prosecutors, police personnel, forensic experts, and legal aid lawyers.
    • For a country of 135 million, there are only 21 judges per million population (as of February 2023).
    • There are almost 400 vacancies in the high courts. And around 35% of the posts are lying vacant in the lower judiciary.
  • Poor Quality of Investigation and Prosecution: The investigation and prosecution agencies often fail to conduct thorough, impartial, and professional investigations. They face interference from political and other influences, corruption, and lack of accountability.
  • Human Rights Violations: The criminal justice system is often accused of violating the human rights of the accused, victims, witnesses, and other stakeholders. There are instances of custodial torture, extrajudicial killings, false arrests, illegal detentions, coerced confessions, unfair trials, and harsh punishments.
  • Outdated Laws and Procedures: The criminal justice system is based on laws and procedures that were enacted by the British in 1860. These laws are archaic and not in tune with contemporary times. They do not address new forms of crimes such as cybercrime, terrorism, organized crime, mob lynching, etc.
  • Public Perception: The Second arc has noted that police-public relations are unsatisfactory in India because people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, and unresponsive, and often hesitate to contact them.(9)
Case Laws:
  • Mohammad Giasuddin v. State of A.P., 1977:
    "Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future," Justice Krishna IyerIn this case it was held that the culture that gives rise to anti-social behavior must be combated through reculturization rather than absolute cruelty. As a result, the individual is the subject of concern in penology, and the primary objective is to save him for the societal structure. Thus, cruel and vicious punishment is a practice of the past . Modern humans recognize punishment as a procedure of restructuring an individual who has effectively turned to criminal activity, and the present society has a major stake in the rehabilitation of the offender as a means of social defense. As a result, instead of an 'in terrorem' (fear)approach, a therapeutic approach must prevail in our court system because harsh confinement of the individual only results in a mental laceration.
  • Satish v. State of U.P. and Anr, 2021:
    In this case the Supreme Court analyzed, "While it is indisputably true that a community has the right to live a peaceful and fearless life, without free-roaming criminals causing trouble in the lives of common peace-loving people." However, the basis of the reformative theory is equally powerful, arguing that a decent society cannot be accomplished solely through punitive behaviors and instead, public harmony, fellowship, and consensual social acceptance should be cultivated. As a result, first-time offenders should be given every opportunity to apologize and look forward to a better future.
  • Mofil Khan vs The State of Jharkhand, 2021:
    Judges in this case stated that the Supreme Court is obligated to obtain all relevant information about the probability of the convicts' transformation before actually enforcing the maximum punishment of the death penalty, even if the accused is silent. Furthermore, the state is required to obtain evidence establishing that the accused has no chance of reformation or restoration. "The possibility of the accused being rehabilitated and restored is one of the mitigating factors. The State is required to obtain proof establishing that the accused has no chance of transformation or restoration. "(10)

Steps Taken By Other Nations To Face The Challenges In The Reformation Of Criminals
Several countries around the world have implemented various initiatives and best practices to address challenges within their criminal justice systems. Here are some international steps towards addressing challenges and different approaches to criminal justice reform:
  1. Norway's Focus on Rehabilitation: Norway is renowned for its emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment within its criminal justice system. Norwegian prisons prioritize education, vocational training, mental health treatment, and therapy to help inmates address the root causes of their criminal behavior and prepare for successful reintegration into society. This approach has contributed to lower recidivism rates and improved outcomes for offenders.
  2. Germany's Restorative Justice Practices: Germany has implemented restorative justice practices, such as victim-offender mediation and community conferencing, as alternatives to traditional court processes. These practices aim to repair harm, promote accountability, and facilitate healing for both victims and offenders. By involving all stakeholders in the resolution process, Germany's restorative justice approach fosters empathy, understanding, and reconciliation.
  3. Australia's Indigenous Justice Initiatives: Australia has developed indigenous justice initiatives to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. These initiatives focus on culturally appropriate interventions, community-based sentencing options, and restorative justice approaches that recognize and respect Indigenous traditions, values, and practices. By empowering Indigenous communities to address justice issues locally, Australia seeks to reduce recidivism and promote reconciliation.
  4. Canada's Reintegration Programs: Canada has implemented reintegration programs for individuals transitioning from prison back into the community. These programs provide comprehensive support services, such as housing assistance, employment training, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling, to help offenders successfully reintegrate and lead law-abiding lives. By addressing the social, economic, and psychological needs of ex-offenders, Canada aims to reduce recidivism and promote public safety.
  5. United States' Criminal Justice Reform Initiatives: The United States has undertaken various criminal justice reform initiatives at the state and federal levels to address systemic issues within the system. These initiatives include sentencing reforms, diversion programs, drug court alternatives, and efforts to reduce mass incarceration. By prioritizing rehabilitation, reentry support, and community-based interventions, the United States seeks to reduce recidivism rates, promote fairness, and address racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

What are Committees' and Their Recommendations to Reform the Criminal Justice System of India?
  • � Vohra committee 1993: To deal with the increasing problem of criminalization of politics and nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, criminals, and anti-social elements.
    • It recommended that an institution be set up to effectively deal with this menace by collecting intelligence from various sources and taking appropriate action against such elements.
  • � Malimath committee 2003: To revamp the criminal justice system, it made recommendations covering various aspects. Some of the key recommendations were:
    • Introducing a new category of offenses called 'social welfare offences' for minor violations that can be dealt with by imposing fines or community service.
    • Replacing the adversarial system with a 'mixed system' that incorporates some elements of the inquisitorial system such as allowing judges to play an active role in collecting evidence and examining witnesses.
    • Reducing the standard of proof required for conviction from 'beyond reasonable doubt' to 'clear and convincing evidence'.
    • Making confessions made before a senior police officer admissible as evidence.
  • � Madhav menon committee 2007: This committee was set up to draft a national policy on criminal justice. It suggested various principles and strategies to guide the reform process such as:
    • Ensuring respect for human dignity and human rights in every stage of criminal justice.
    • Promoting restorative justice that focuses on healing the harm caused by crime rather than inflicting punishment.
    • Improving coordination and cooperation among various agencies involved in criminal justice such as police, judiciary, prosecution etc.
  • � Supreme Court Directives on police reforms 2006: In response to a public interest litigation filed by two former police officers Prakash Singh and N.K. Singh, seeking police reforms in India, the Supreme Court issued seven directives to ensure functional autonomy, accountability, and professionalism of the police force. Some of the directives were:
    • Setting up a State Security Commission to lay down policies for police functioning, evaluate performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
    • Ensuring a fixed tenure for the Director General of Police, who should be selected from a panel based on objective criteria and not at the whims of the political executive.
    • Separating the investigation and law and order functions of the police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise, and improved rapport with the people.
    • Establishing a Police Complaints Authority at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police personnel.
  1. Increase Funding for Rehabilitation Programs: Governments should allocate more resources towards rehabilitation programs within correctional facilities and in the community. This includes funding for education, vocational training, mental health treatment, substance abuse counseling, and reentry support services. Investing in rehabilitation not only reduces recidivism but also promotes positive outcomes for individuals involved in the criminal justice system.
  2. Combat Stigma and Discrimination: Public awareness campaigns and education programs should be implemented to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about individuals with criminal records. Employers, landlords, and educational institutions should be encouraged to adopt policies that support the reintegration of ex-offenders into society and provide opportunities for employment, housing, and education.
  3. Strengthen Support Systems for Reentry: Comprehensive reentry programs should be developed to provide holistic support to individuals transitioning from prison back into the community. This includes assistance with housing, employment, healthcare, education, and social services. Peer mentoring, case management, and community-based support networks can help ex-offenders navigate the challenges of reintegration and reduce their likelihood of reoffending.
  4. Implement Evidence-Based Rehabilitation Methods: Governments should prioritize evidence-based rehabilitation methods that have been proven effective in reducing recidivism and promoting reformation. This includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-informed care, restorative justice practices, and community-based interventions. Programs should be tailored to the individual needs of offenders and evaluated regularly to ensure their effectiveness.

In conclusion, the reformation of criminals within the criminal justice system is a complex and multifaceted process thatrequires concerted efforts from policymakers, practitioners, and society as a whole. Despite the challenges of limited resources, stigma, inadequate support systems, high rates of recidivism, institutional barriers, and cultural attitudes towards punishment, there are potential solutions and innovative strategies available to improve the reformation process.

By increasing funding for rehabilitation programs, combatting stigma and discrimination, strengthening support systems for reentry, and implementing evidence-based rehabilitation methods, countries can worktowards creating more effective, humane, and equitable criminal justice systems. It is crucial to emphasize the importance of addressing these challenges in promoting publicsafety, reducing recidivism, and supporting the rehabilitation of offenders.

  2. "The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger" by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, page 161.
  3. "Prosecution Complex: America's Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent" by Daniel S. Medwed, page 246.
  4. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela" Page number: Page. 457
Bare Acts:
  1. Constitution of India 1950
  2. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
  3. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  4. The Indian Penal Code 1860
  5. The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Mohamed Younus T
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Authentication No: AP409415238134-3-0424

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