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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Parole, furlough not an absolute right, need to protect society, review guidelines: MHA to states

"Imprisonment besides being a mode of punishment also aims at protecting the society from criminal activities. A balance is, therefore, considered essential between ensuring the rights of inmates and protectIng the society from further harm," the advisory has said.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi | Updated: September 5, 2020 1:48:12 am
jail inmates, Covid cases, Maharashtra news, Pune news, Indian express newsTemporary prisons have separate Covid care centres, where asymptomatic inmates are being lodged. Those with symptoms are being admitted to designated hospitals along with security arrangements. (Representational)

Expressing concern over crimes being committed by prisoners on parole, furlough or by those prematurely released, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sent an advisory to states, asking them to exercise due diligence in releasing prisoners and follow the guidelines it issued.

The MHA, in an advisory, has argued that “release on parole is not an absolute right” and is a “concession”, and has asked states to review their existing practices for such an exercise.

The ministry has asked states to not release prisoners who are considered a threat to the security of the state or to individuals, and not grant such concessions as a “matter of routine” to those involved in heinous crimes.

Sources said the move has been triggered by reports of several prisoners, particularly those serving a sentence of less than seven years, being released on parole and furlough and some of them going on to commit crimes. “In the wake of the pandemic, states are under pressure to release prisoners in order to avoid overcrowding in prisons. However, in the process a lot of prisoners are being released without adherence to guidelines,” an MHA official said.

The ministry advisory says, “Imprisonment besides being a mode of punishment also aims at protecting the society from criminal activities. A balance is, therefore, considered essential between ensuring the rights of inmates and protecting the society from further harm.”

The ministry has said that prison is a state subject and all states have their own rules for parole, furlough, remission and premature release based on good conduct of the prisoners. It has, however, said that concerns have been raised about such prisoners committing crimes once out of jail and thus states must carefully regulate release of prisoners.

“It is, therefore, important for state authorities to review their guidelines to ensure that the facility and concession given to inmates, by way of parole, furlough and premature release etc. with the intention of providing them relief and rehabilitation, is not abused and misused by them and their advantage does not turn into disadvantage and nuisance for the society at large,” the advisory says.

It has asked states to include four new provisions in guidelines for release of prisoners:

– Grant of parole and furlough to those offenders whose release may have adverse impact on the security of the State or safety of individuals may be strictly restricted.

– The parole rules of states, including the criteria, duration and frequency, may be reviewed after making an assessment based on their experience about the benefits and detriments of such parole.

– Parole and furlough may not be granted as a matter of routine and may be decided by a committee of officers and behavioural experts, who may meet as per requirement, keeping in view all relevant factors, especially for inmates sentenced for sexual offences and serious crimes such as murder, child abduction, violence etc.

– It may be useful to invariably include an expert psychologist/ criminologist/ correctional administration expert as a member of the sentence review board and in the committee which decides grant of parole and furlough to inmates and obtain their opinion before such temporary release.

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