The Evaluation of all Types of Juvenile Institutions in India

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Evaluation of all Types of Juvenile Institutions in India

An evaluation of all types of juvenile institutions shows that lifestyle in these institutions is not at all satisfactory and inmates enjoy little freedom.

The institutions are mostly over-crowded, management is centralised, and training programmes are very traditional, individualised attention is not paid, life is by and large dull, their budgets are rather low, and the number (of institutions) is very inadequate.

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On study made long ago (1968) to evaluate juvenile correctional institutions was by the Indian Council of Social Welfare under the directorship of S.D. Gokhale. In this study (1969: 83-89), 229 inmates released during the period of five years were interviewed.

It was found that: (1) training given in the institutions does not help the inmates in getting jobs; (2) institutions do not provide facilities for formal school/college education; (3) counseling and case-work facilities are inadequate; (4) individual attention is not paid to inmates; and (5) institutions have limited budgets which prevent them from adequate planning.

Two recent studies of Observation Homes one conducted in early 1995 by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called BOSCO in Bangalore and another conducted in November 1995 in three cities Mumbai, Delhi, and Ujjain by a popular weekly magazine (Sunday) reveal horrible conditions in the Observation Homes.

Escapes from these homes have been a regular feature now for many years. Six escapes hit the headlines in the last five years (1991-96). The most recent one was the escape of 22 inmates from Observation Home, Delhi (November 1995). The second was the escape of 29 inmates from the Juvenile Home, Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) in June 1995, two months after it was opened. One teenager even attempted suicide.

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There were reports of torture and a confirmed case of sexual exploitation. The third incident was reported in February 1994 in Delhi in which 14 boys escaped by cutting through a false ceiling and crawling out through a ventilator.

The fourth case was reported from Patna (Bihar) in August 1993 in which 35 youngsters, aged 7-20 years, were so unhappy with the inhuman behaviour of the staff that they assaulted the guards before escaping.

The Umerkhadi Remand Home, Mumbai reported the escape of 49 inmates in July 1992. Of these, 24 were rearrested. Lastly, ten juvenile delinquents escaped from the Shilyayan Centre, Behrampur, and West Bengal in December 1991 because of the inhuman conditions at the home.

Children are found in the homes even after the stipulated period of three to six months is over. In Bangalore it was shocking to discover a boy who had been in the home for six years while one boy had landed in it for the eleventh time (Sunday, 26 November-2 December 1995: 87).

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An inmate of one home of Mumbai about five years ago (November 1995) revealed in his interview that “the younger boys in the homes virtually live under the dictatorship of the senior boys. They make them wash their utensils and clothes and even snatch their share of food. The warden and the security staff never bother to intervene.

On the contrary, the complainants are beaten up by the authorities. Sexual abuse of younger children is common in the homes and authorities turn a blind eye to it. Beatings are a regular affair”. An inmate of a home in Surat pointed out: “if an inmate did not want to be beaten, he had to be friendly with the master”.

The life of juveniles who languish in the homes means an endless series of days spent trying to save themselves from being bullied and tortured by older boys and sadistic officials. Since there is no way they can retaliate, in most cases they have to submit, unconditionally, to the whims and fancies of their tormentors.

Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ), Delhi visited one of the three Observation Homes for juvenile delinquents in January 1995 in North Delhi run by the Delhi Administration.

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She was so shocked by visible flouting of the rules that as a member of the Delhi Legal Aid and Advice Board, she moved the High Court seeking directions to the Delhi Administration authorities to implement the Juvenile Justice Act in the Observation Homes. Young boys were herded in the home like cattle.

When the juvenile justice rules stipulate minimum space of forty square feet for each inmate, the ASJ found that 92 young inmates were packed in two small rooms, each inmate having hardly space of 4.5 square feet.

No special classes were being held as stipulated by law. In the name of recreational facilities, only one small TV set was kept in the room. The inmates were being given tailoring instructions two hours every day.

There was no systematic attempt at reformation. The welfare staff and teachers too were in short supply. Instead of three welfare officers, a teacher and a psychologist, there was only one welfare officer in the home.

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While it is mandatory on the part of the administration to provide free education to juvenile under trials, the authorities were callously ignoring even this obligation. Medical facilities were also absent.

The rules require medical examination of inmates in two to three days of their admission. This rule was being followed more in breach than in observance. Resident doctors, even where appointed were hardly present in the home when required. The security was also very lax. No wonder, 72 out of 105 inmates escaped from this home in November 1995 after tying up the two caretakers.

The caretakers were found to be in the habit of becoming friendly with the young offenders permitting them to hide liquor bottles and organise drinking sessions quite frequently. The idea is not to turn Observation Homes into jails but reformation is surely needed if homes like this are to be properly used in handling juveniles under trial (The Hindustan Times, December 1995).

Official response to such charges is dismissive. Staff members generally aver that “after all, these kids belong to the streets and it takes time to mend their ways. The allegations of maltreatment and sexual abuse of juveniles in these homes are unfounded. The media blow up only the stray negative cases.”

However, it is a fact that exposure of conditions in these homes in the press forces the authorities to do some self-examining. The Umerkhadi Remand Home in Mumbai is one such example. After the escape of inmates from this home was reported in July 1992-because of the intolerable conditions created by an apathetic staff-the home has been trying to bring about improvement in it’s functioning.

Even if conditions really improve in these Observation Homes, the best place for a child’s rehabilitation is the home and not an institution. An institution has to be the last resort for juvenile delinquents.

The sooner a child is restored from the home to his parents, the better for the child, the parents as well as the state because the institution can never offer real affection to children who are usually at an age when they need it the most.

Care and counseling can never be expected from untrained and callous staff in the homes. The traumatic experiences of the children remanded to these homes only turn them into bigger criminals. The society needs to be sensitized to their plight.

A study of 27 institutions for socially handicapped children in Rajasthan (including Juvenile Reformatory, Observation Homes, Probation Home, Children Home, etc.) conducted by M.S. Bedi about fifteen years ago also pointed out that:

(1) Institutional facilities are underutilised and occupancy rate of institutes is much below their capacity;

(2) The quality and the content of vocational training is poor. It does not equip the inmate to rehabilitate himself economically after being discharged from the institute;

(3) Space and physical amenities for inmates fall short of the minimum standards laid down by the Central Social Welfare Board;

(4) Protection services during institutionalization (against tough and aggressive inmates, homosexual assaults, snatching of eatables and other things by fellow inmates) and after discharge (against old accomplices, police harassment, immoral traffickers, etc.) are not provided; and

(5) Facilities to inmates for communicating with family members, kin and friends are inadequate. Even if it is assumed that some changes have been introduced in these Homes in the last few years, it can be safely said that there is great need of restructuring these Homes.

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