Prison Ministry India conducted its VII National Convention from 12th to 15th of October, 2002 at Santhome Community Centre, Chennai, Tamilnad. The public function address was inaugurated by Mr. Bhola Nath I.P.S, additional DGP and Most Rev. Mar Baselius, the president of CBCI was the president of inaugural session. The meeting was so blessed by the presence of Justice A. Packia Raj, High Court of Karnataka, Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Remigius, the patron of Prison Ministry India, and Rev. Sr. Prudentia FSJ, Assistant General. There were many prominent sessions on prison ministry, legal awareness, and group sharing and state level future plans were actively participated by all. The presence of a great lady, Smt. Kiran Bedi I.P.S. the first IPS lady and first lady superintendent of Tihar Ashram was so enriching and her experience Sharing was so touching to the participants. Fr. Sebastian Vadakumpadan, Fr. Antony Raja and Mr. Jesu Raja were the national coordinator and State coordinator and the state secretary of Prison Ministry India respectively for the coordination of the convention. About 200 volunteers participated in the convention.
Power to correct through prison management by
Kiran Bedi, ( the session taken by Kiran Bedi during the convention)
Our prisons do not reform criminals, they breed them. This scenario can be altered if the management so posted or entrusted with prison responsibility adds value to their prison assignments.
Having visited prisons around the world, all in liberal democracies, many prisons seem to have become airtight warehouse of human beings. Teenagers graduated to become lifers. Thiers friends mostly being prison inmates and prison their first home. On release the left behind inmates wait to celebrate their early return.
Why does this happen? Why aren’t prisons correctional centers as they are called and claim to be? It is perhaps the way we administer. Since many of the managers consider prisons to be backyard postings. They add punishment to their work by indifferent administration. When I entered Tihar prison in 1993 this is what I saw which is indicative of what exists normally in prisons.
"Prisons, as institutions are completely isolated. Contrary to the requirements of a correctional centre, each wing of the criminal justice system deals with prisoners in its own way, without any cohesion. This is how it appears to be functioning………."
"Internal management of prisoners appears to be that of a guard preventing escapes and internal riots. Hence it is more under the charge of warders and head warders, despite the presence of officers, who perform only distant supervisory roles."
"The supervisory ranks are distant. The official hierarchy closes in with its positive capacity. The vulture seemed to symbolize it the best."
Prisons end up contaminating more than correcting. The prison environment aids inmates build criminal bonding rather than individual realization of what goes wrong with them. It encourages feelings of revenge rather than redemption. Prisoners practice and suffer violence, and one disease to which they all fall prey is lethargy.
Prisons normally have a system of head counts and lock ups. A place where the occupants do not sleep at night, for various reasons, the night sounds resemble those of a zoo. A place inhabited by humans to whom it hardly mattered whether it was day or night! The drawings show that there is no difference in the prisoners’ activities, between day and night. They sleep through the day, or keep awake through the night.
During my recent visit to a western prison a modern, women correctional centre, I noticed that it had the state of the art facilities, including a swimming pool and a gymnasium but also had a totally polluted environment. There wasn’t single woman inmate who I did not see smoking. Most of them appeared heavily addicted and were burning their time and youth away. What can one expect from such persons on their release? Nothing… They will continue to be a heavy social liability with enormous community costs. No one denies that crimes must be punished. No one disputes that criminals have to be sent to prisons by due process by due process of law. But being in prison and losing one’s freedom is punishment enough why do we add to it by not giving the inmate space to breathe and keeping him caged for most of the day and night? This is nothing short of making animals out of human beings. In such situations, prisons in fact increase the danger to society rather than reducing it.
Prisons are for punishment but we forget they are also for preparation for release. A prison is like a flowing river in which offenders. Inmates and convicts come and go and thank god, they do go. Otherwise hell would no meo9re be imaginary. It would be available in every city of the world. I firmly believe that when prisons do not prepare prisoners for release, they in fact directly endanger society including the tax payers that actually pay the price for the so called correctional centers.
If prisoners are not to be human ware houses or landfills but meaningful “correctional centers” then they have to be taken charge of. Prison managers must see that inmates use their time to re-engineer their minds, and are provided the tools which facilitate individual recovery, whether direct or indirect, visible or invisible, conscious or subtle. Recovery will need to be holistic. An enabling environment skillfully crafted and sustained by prison managers and not imposed or introduced by inmates.
On arrival at the prison, individuals must be informed and counseled on the activity schedule based on the mission statement of the correctional centre this will be the first clear message to the inmate: that he is not here to drift but to work his sails. The preparation for release should begin from the first day it shouldn’t matter whether the inmate is there for a few days or for life. No one should be allowed to waste away the time. Time inside the prison is precious and it has to be value added.
To make this possible, the basic requirements would be to enable extensive learning.
All this is possible and much more, only if the political and civil administration believes in the mission that while being sent to prison is a punishment, preparing inmates for the release is the primary duty of the prison administration. Therefore all that goes into a holistic correction would need to be explored and regularly evolved. One of the most facilitating methods of this, which can be considered, is the community entry into the prison. By this I mean seeking out to the individuals or organized groups from the community who are willing to volunteer time out of a strong missionary spirit, and offer their special skills. They will surface only if prison administration seeks out for them. Of course, the Govt, And the funding agencies can step in to support. This is one of the many keys to social integration, social recovery and social reform.
I propose here a simple prison management model, which can effectively y lead to crime prevention. It is the 3 C model. The three C’s standing for corrective, collective, community based prison management. Corrective, as it is aimed at correction; collective as it is a joint effort involving the inmates, the prison staff, the management and the government and non governmental agencies from outside and; community based as all the units involved, work as a community to achieve their collective goals.
"The 3C model is based on internal cohesion and external coordination and participation. This is holistic approach to restoration of prisoners."
Year Of Convention