Prison Ministry India (PMI), a prison ministry run by the Catholic Church, recently urged provincial authorities to address various concerns of prisoners and jail officials.
The group has called for expedited penal reforms and a shift to a rehabilitative approach in dealing with persons deprived of liberty and jail facilities across India.
Prisoner, Jail Issues
Fr. Francis Kodiyan, a member of the MCBS (Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament), bared that prisoners in India’s jails suffer from “deplorable conditions.”
“More than 70 percent of prisoners are awaiting or are on trial, and delays in court procedures make them vulnerable to abuse and violations of their human rights,” Kodiyan informed UCA News on Nov. 23.
MCBS is an “indigenous Catholic clerical congregation of pontifical right in the Sybo-Malabar church established in 1933.” Kodiyan also co-founded PMI with Fr. Varghese Karippery in 1981.
The priest added that many prisoners were from underprivileged families, which prevented them from hiring competent legal representatives.
“It is high time that governments take special initiatives to provide legal aid and ensure speedy trials,” he explained.
Father Kodiyan said governments must construct new jails to address the overcrowding problem in many prison facilities across the country. He explained that more jails would not only lessen the number of prisoners sharing prison cells but also assist those who committed a crime for the first time or the minor offenders in changing their lives for the better.
Additionally, Kodiyan proposed a system that would categorize and segregate prisoners according to the gravity of their crimes.
“A first offender or a small offender is put inside the same prison cell as a hardcore criminal, which is detrimental to their rehabilitation,” Kodiyan told UCA News.
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‘Benefits for All’
According to UCA News, the Church-run ministry stressed the need for provincial and state government leaders to stop unnecessary court trial delays and overcrowding in many jails. The group likewise called for government action to address the inadequacy of hygiene and health facilities in various Indian prisons.
“The governments with a view to providing better amenities to the prisoners have formulated policies and programs, but often the benefits are not reaching those languishing behind bars,” UCA News quoted Father Kodiyan saying.
The news outlet disclosed that PMI made the plea for penal reforms during its 13th convention in Goa from Nov. 15 to 19 this year. The event reportedly attracted some 450 delegates.
The group’s official statement urged provincial and state governments to “adopt more concrete measures to ease the hardship of those behind bars.”
The group likewise explained that the families of prisoners must also be relieved of their burden about the condition of their loved ones languishing in Indian jails. PMI also urged authorities to ensure that prisoners who completed their jail sentence must be rehabilitated.
“Incarceration must give every opportunity for prisoners to accept their own guilt, acknowledge their need for repentance and reformation. It is the duty of the governments to make sure that prisoners enjoy fundamental and basic human rights,” PMI added.
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