LIFE and restoration. But what happens when this

LIFE AFTER PRISON: EXAMINING
COLLATERAL DAMAGES AND SOCIETAL CONSEQUENCES IN THE LIGHT OF HUMAN RIGHT LAWS

 

INTRODUCTION:

One
of the major aims of having law and order in the civilized society is to ensure
the citizen of a dignified life. Every individual deserves basic human rights
irrespective of their caste, culture, nationality, color etc. But what about
those who evade the law? Those who we punish and often imprison. Should they be
treated equally as that of other members of the society? Well, its simple. When
a person commits  a crime or evade law,
he become a criminal. But does he cease to be a human being? The humanistic
principle states that even if an individual commits a crime he does not cease
to be a human being.

One
of the most humane theories of Punishment states that the main objective of
punishing an offender is not only to set an example for the society but also to
reform the individual, so that when he re-enters the society after serving his
term he can become a law abiding citizen, a changed human being. Hence criminologists
belief that imprisonment can be used as a very effective tool to educate and
reform a criminal through training and restoration. But what happens when this so
called reformed prisoner tries to reenter the society. Is he now free to start
a fresh dignified life or he is again imprisoned by societal hatred and
unacceptability?

We
have often observed that when prisoners are released, they do not find it easy
to become a productive member of the society. They are denied from employment opportunity,
government services, often rejected by their families and looked down as sub
citizen with hatred. It turns out to be very challenging to get back into his
ordinary life. Infact sometimes in order to deal with these miseries, he again
re-enters the path or crime and wrongs. But is it completely their fault or
makes the society equally responsible for their act? Is the criminal justice
system serving them justice by denying them their basic human rights? In this
paper we will discuss the various societal challenges  and collateral damages faced by the
ex-offenders and examine how far these are violating their basic rights and put
forward various suggestions about how the situation of these neglected
population can improved.  

CHALLENGES FACED BY EX-OFFENDERS ON
REENTERING THE SOCIETY

After
spending decades in prison, when a prisoner finally comes out he is often not accepted
by the society. He needs to undergo counseling sessions but cannot do so due to
the limited resources available to him which makes his situation worse making
it more difficult for him to start over. In order to examine these challenges
and their effect on the prisoner we will categorize them into three group –
Micro analysis deals with the individual issues, Mezo analysis studies his
relation to family and other smaller groups while Macro analysis deals with
larger group of people like companies, communities, agencies and even nation.

1.     
Micro
Challenges faced by the offenders

It is often noticed that when
offenders are released, it becomes difficult for them to secure a job and earn
a proper livelihood. There can be many reasons for that. Often we notice that
due to spending a long term in prison, they are deprived of educational an
opportunity which holds them back in the real world. Lack of practical training
and participation in various activities remains as a bog disadvantage to these
imprisoned people. They often drop out from schools and colleges in order to
finish their term of punishment making their education incomplete. All thse
factors makes it difficult for them to secure a job compared to that of the
general population who had easy access to all the education and training.

It is also observed that sometimes
the employers are hesitant to hire those who have served imprisonment or committed
crime as they do not feel secure to allow an ex-offender into his work
premises. They are unsure about their violent behavior and effect on other
employees.

The prominent gap in the resume of
the convict makes the situation more difficult for him to even getting accepted
for an interview and hence limits their professional network. In fact their past
experiences are also not valued much in the light of the offences committed by
him. Sometimes during imprisonment they face physical and metal health issues,
bodily injuries, mental disturbances etc. which is later used as an excuse by
the employers to say that they are not ready for job responsibilities.

 

 

2.     
Mezo
Challenges faced by the offenders

Various studies have indicated that
convicts who are in constant contact with their family or have support from
their loved ones often show more signs of reformation and do not tend to commit
crime post imprisonment. But in most of the scenario, the prisoners do not get
much co-operation from their family. Infact sometimes families of these
convicts suffer a lot of hardships in the society, dejection and hatred, as result
of which they even disown the convict member of the family.

 

In case where the convict was the sole
bread earner of the family, faces extreme poverty. Those imprisoned convicts majority
of who are parents often miss out on their children’s crutial growing years as
a result of which the relationship with their children is often disturbed and
unhealthy. For those who serve lengthy term, without the support from their
families it becomes very difficult for him to cope up with the advance
technology and societal changes.

 

When the ex-offender returns home,
the family often face a mental and financial burden as in the initial days of
returning back, he is mostly dependent on his family. But in those cases where
family denies looking after the ex-offender it becomes miserable for him to
reconnect to the world.

 

3.     
Macro
Challenges faced by the offenders:

 Macro challenges include various collateral
consequences which are faced not as a part of the punishment but outburst of
government and state’s criminal feeling. These consequences are those which are
forced by the law upon the ex offender after his conviction for a criminal wrong.

These collateral consequences often
limit various social, financial and political rights of the imprisoned
individual.

 

These practices commonly include
disentitlement from public benefits like lodging and food provided by
government at subsidized rates, employment limitations, debarment from military
services, community services, banning from jury services and also extradition
in case of non-residents. 

Irrespective of serving years as a
prisoner, they are still looked upon as threats and wrong doers and not given
all the advantages of citizenship. In order to deal with such possible threats,
the criminal justice system has come up with the strategy of ‘Parole’ where the
prisoner is allowed to return to the society with the guarantee of return to
prison if he evades the law in any way. During this term although in theories
he is set out but often various restrictions are put on them. Such limitations
includes staying  within prescribed geographical
area, prohibition from keeping forearm, ban from visiting bar or drinking
alcohol, unable to generate driving license or being accountable to frequent
search warrants etc. any time. Here clearly they are not allowed to live as per
their own terms but has to adhere with orders passed by the Parole officer. These
practices make the situation worse and often push them to relive the life of
criminal and not a reformed individual.

 

ANALYZING THE ISSUES WITH THE HELP
OF CASES

Let us now understand these
consequences better with the help of case studies in order to under the plight
of these ex offenders in the society.

TRACING ARUNA SHAUNBAUG’S RAPIST: The
case of Aruna Shaunbaug, where the victim was left in a vegetative state for
over 40 years sparkled the debate of ‘euthanasia’ across the nation.  Sohanlal Valmiki, the rapist sodomised her and
choked her with dog chain in such a manner that due to lack of oxygen supply she
went into coma. Sohanlal was charged with assault and robbery but not with rape
and was sentenced for 7 years.1
People believe that after 7 years Sohanlal was set free yet Aruna suffered pain
till the end of her life. But today if we examine the life of Sohanlal Valmiki,
after his term of imprisonment we can observe that not only the victim but the culprit
also faced immense hardship and societal hatred throughout his life.

Various
reports and interviews stated that when Sohanlal was charged with his crime,
not only him but his entire family had to go through severe punishment. It was
noticed that his parents were ashamed to be seen in public, his father avoided
every argument with the society while his mother mostly stayed at home, hiding
her face behind ‘ghoonghat’ as they were accused everywhere in public as the
parents of a ‘rapist’. Infact when he was imprisoned, he was married to his
wife for only about 2 years with a  few months
old daughter who passed away at a very young age. His wife had to leave their
home in Mumbai and shift to Pune as there was insufficient space to live.  His wife wanted to remarry and start a new
life initially as she was pointed out by society for his sins.

Hardship
followed him even after completion of his 7 years sentence. He was released
from Yerwada jail in 1980 after which he took the job of a sweeper in a
locality to earn his bread. But societal questions and pressure did not let him
to stay there for long, so he left for his village with his family.  After coming out of jail when he heard about
the situation of Aruna Shanbaug and felt guilty about the same. He came out as
reformed individual. He gave up on consuming alcohol, smoking bidi and eating
non-vegetarian food.

After
moving into his village he wanted to start his life afresh by becoming a
tailor, but unfortunately he did not have any savings so could not afford a
sewing machine. So finally he joined a job as a laborer. He was always afraid
that the contractor might find out who he is and fire him from the only job he
has. People used to stare at him with hatred and shame. Behavioral disparities
from his co workers at his workplace made it more difficult. Infact his own
brother often taunted him and threw stones at him with anger and hatred. Scared
to death he finally left his village again with his family and went to Parda
village to his in-laws. After working there as a laborer he was detected with
eyesight issue due to infections. Doctors recommended him surgery but since he
could not afford it he kept this hidden from his family.

People
from Parda village refer him as a changed man. In his old days he spends most
of the evening with kids, playing with them and telling stories to them. But no
matter what his past never ceased to haunt him.  Years after the incident even today people
look down to him and often use illicit language towards him. His own children
blame him for all the poverty and not being able to live a better life in the
city every day.

 SOCITAL
CHARGES ON TALWARS :

The
double murder tragedy of 14 year old Arushi Talwar and their family’s domestic
help Hemraj Banjade in 2008 is known to everyone. Major suspect in this case
was Arushi’s parents Nupur Talwar and Rajesh Talwar as per circumstantial
evidence. Even before the sesions court decided anything on the matter the society
lashed out their hatred on the dentist parents by accusing them of honor
killing their own daughter. They did not just stopped here they repeatedly
pointed out finger not only on the character of the parents but also did not
spare the dead child. Many news channels accused her of being a slut by
pointing her affair with two of her classmates and Hemraj just to increase
their TRP and reach their targeted audience.2

Brutal
societal opinions made the situation worse. Her parents were questioned how could
they not be aware of a murder happening in their next room or even by murdering
the child and Hemraj whether they tried to cover their love affair and protect
their reputation. Imagine how a parent would had felt with all this societal
brutality and pressure when they are already going through the death of their
only daughter.

After
the judgment passed by Allahabad Court in 2017, all the charges against them
were removed, the parents shared how they spent 4 years in jail and how
uncertain they are about the reaction of they society on their discharge. While
in jail Rajesh Talwar used to look after the medical needs of the inmates while
Nupur Talwar found her peace in educating the children and the young ones in
prison. They also stated that the inmates in the jail were very supportive and
helpful and infact upon their release, when they saw so many people outside the
jail they were scared to come out and face the society. In an interview, Rajesh
Talwar even said that “After being
confined for so long … You suddenly come into freedom… It’s a little
scary… to face people, to face the world… to go back into the world… It’s
a difficult thing which you have to slowly learn”. 3

COLLATERAL CONCEQUENCES AND
SOCIETAL CHALLENGES IN THE LIGHT OF HUMAN RIGHT LAWS

Various
Human rights which are present in the society are those rights which developed in
the society across history often through conflicts and revolutions and every
member of the society has equal right over them. These rights are guaranteed to
everyone from the moment they are born as a human being and it helps them to
grow mentally as well as physically to survive in the society. Various
international laws and conventions are preset which allows every individual to
have access to this basic right. The most fundamental concept of human rights
is to protect the human existence so irrespective of class, occupation or
status everyone is entitled to these basic rights. So what happens to the
law-breakers? Do they cease to be a human being when they commit a crime? No.
Hence their basic human right cannot be denied from them in prison or when they
come back to the society after the prison.

The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights was devised in 1948 to ensure Human
rights across the world. Infact Article 10 of ICCPR expressly mention that even
“prisoners should be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of human
person”4 It
also states that such humane treatment towards them aims to help them to
succeed towards starting a new life after their prison term, because the main
aim of imprisonment is reformation and social rehabilitation. Apart from that
UN has also laid down various guidelines in the Standard Minimum Rules for the
Treatment of Prisoners5
(SMR) so that when the prisoner returns to the society he can reform himself
into a law-abiding citizen and lead a dignified life.

When
we observe these collateral consequences faced by the ex offender we can see
that social hatred and disentitlement from various activities cause grave violation
to their basic Human Right. As we all are aware that the Indian Constitution
itself in Article 216
states that everyone has right to personal liberty, and hence no one shall face
any kind of inhumane, degrading  and
cruel treatment from anyone. This is one the basic fundamental right which is
not only for the Indian citizen but to every foreign individual as well in the
territory of our country.  Apart from
that various provisions of our constitution protects various aspects of Human
Rights as well which are often overlooked for these ex offenders.

When
an offender is convicted, various details of that offender is collected by the
state like, his fingerprints, photograph, DNA and other personal information. In
this age of technology these criminal records can be made easily available to
everyone making the convict vulnerable even after his release. As per the
Constitution, right to privacy is a fundamental right which is guaranteed to
every citizen under Article 21. But such distribution and access to these
criminal records can be subjected as a violation from the privacy point of
view.

Many
times basic civil rights of an individual such as right to vote, right to
public employment, housing facilities, disentitlement from military post are
denied as a result of conviction. These consequences in denial of human rights
too. For example, shelter is regarded as one of the basic need of human being
and hence recognized as a human right to everyone. But often it is observed
that housing facilities of ex convicts are denied as a result of which not only
the ex-offender but his entire family becomes homeless. Again a very much debated
issue in India is Right to vote. Denial of Right to vote as a result of
conviction can be argued to be a violation of not only Article 326 of Indian
Constitution but also Article 25 of ICCPR.

Not
only this but they are also disentitled from public services and military posts
as a result of conviction, which hampers their livelihood and access to basic
income. Such practices can be regarded as violation of Article 16 (1) of the
Indian Constitutions and Article 21(1) of UDHR which grants right to equal access
to public employment. Ex-offenders are also denied of employment opportunities
in various other fields due to lack of training, technical understanding,
educational qualifications. Also when criminal records are accessed by
employers ex offenders are disqualified from their jobs and discriminated for
being a criminal in his past and often not treated equally in the society. Such
discrimination are violates their rights under Article 14 and 15 of Indian
constitution and Article 7 of UDHR.

A
person should not be denied his basic human rights just because he has committed
some unlawful act and cannot be treated differently even after his conviction.
A proper balance in the criminal justice system can only be maintained if the
wrong doers are punished in such a way that they can be reformed and be made a
productive part of the society.