Since our childhood we know the word jail or prison. We feel so happy when the righteous wins in the movie while the convict is sent to jail. So for a while let us sail to the other end of the sea. All of us are familiar with life imprisonment. I don’t think anyone must have thought about the word seriously though. In India life imprisonment is literally imprisonment for life. Although the state has special powers to reduce the life sentence but the life sentence cannot be reduced to less than 14.
Prisons in India are overcrowded by 114 percent and understaffed by 33%. This is still not much. If we look into countries like Haiti the figure goes up sky rocketing. In poor countries like Haiti prison cells often do not even have washrooms or any proper drainage. Convicts often die in the filth of jail. Now just imagine 20-30 years of life cast away from the world in little cell. You cannot see your daughter growing up, be with your family, help your old parents. Out here we talk about ‘living life king size’ and ‘enjoying every moment’ and in there confined within those four walls all these people feel is regret for the offense they committed. In some cases I agree life imprisonment may be necessary. There have been certain people in the world who have done a lot of harm to society and need to be imprisoned. But as for the rest life imprisonment may be a bit harsh. A guy called Richard Philips served a 45 year sentence and later he was found to be innocent. The state paid him $1.5 million as compensation.
Although modern prisons have introduced a couple of new processes like having a prison library and have introduced many vocational courses and activities for convicts. But these efforts haven’t been uniform. In some cases the people become so used to prison that they can’t live in the outside world. Most of the time they don’t have any kind of education or skill to work. The society too looks upon them with eyes of suspicion and isn’t ready to accept them. Some people who have lived decades of their life inside prison can;t survive in the real world and commit crimes again in attempt to go back to prison. In UK, 72% of convicts end up back in the jail after release.
Equipping convicts with skills is very necessary. Also we have to ensure that they keep in touch with the outer world. After all they too are humans and they too have the right to live. Agreed that they have committed heinous crimes in their past but they are learning their lessons. And aren’t we committing a crime by stealing the right to live from them.
So prisons really do reform people? My dilemma is simple enough prisons hide the hideous face of humanity or are they hideous faces of humanity??
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