Satish Bansode was released from Yerawada jail after serving 22 years on murder charges. So was Robin Mohite who was released a week ago. However, they had nowhere to go and with the meagre amount of money they earned at the jail, the future did not seem bright.
That’s when the Pune branch of Prison Ministry India, a Catholic voluntary organisation, stepped in and provided handcarts and sewing machines to help them earn. Efforts to rehabilitate prisoners have been stepped up by not just trying to reintegrate them into society, but also taking care of educational expenses of their children.
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Father Wilfred Fernandes, Rector, St. Patrick’s cathedral and state coordinator of Prison Ministry India, told Newsline that after permission from jail authorities, the organisation decided to support the academic careers of two prisoners. While one is studying for three diplomas — entrepreneurship, marketing management and agriculture business management — from Wellinkar Institute of Management, the other is studying for a Ph.D from Shivaji University, Kolhapur.
The organisation has spent more than Rs 40,000 for their research and books, and another Rs one lakh on educational courses undertaken by children of prisoners.
A national voluntary organisation working for the ‘release, reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners’, Prison Ministry India has 850 branches across the country. More than 6,000 volunteers are actively involved in the organisation that reaches out to 1,394 prisons in the country.
In Pune, a branch was set up more than two years ago. Initially, the organisation set up medical camps for inmates and celebrated festivals with them, but soon the unmet needs of prisoners were discussed with jail authorities.
The organisation would hold a central regional conference for the first time on May 13-15 in Pune at the Papal Seminary. The theme of the conference is ‘Prisoners no more, but brothers and sisters’. “No one is born a criminal and while crime has to be punished, the fact remains that 80 per cent of the prisoners come from broken families,” Father Wilfred said.
Apart from raising funds for rehabilitation work by organising canteen services during Sunday masses at the church, the volunteers also track the academic progress of the children of prisoners.
Venita Britto, one of the coordinators, says of a boy who barely knows his father as he is in jail. “The boy is 17 and has been doing well. He scored 87 per cent in the Std X examination. Now a student of SJPN Trusts Polytechnic at Belgaum, Karnataka, he is in the fourth semester in a mechanical degree course. The organisation has also sponsored both the school and coaching fees for a Std X girl from Holy Infant High School, Mumbai,” Britto said.
According to Anthony Jacob, another volunteer, the conference would also have children of some prisoners talking about their experiences. “The conference would also discuss on prisoners’ rights apart from ways to reintegrate them into society,” he said.