AFTER-CARE OF RELEASED PRISONERS OM PRAKASH GOEL Society may breathe a...
AFTER-CARE OF RELEASED PRISONERS
OM PRAKASH GOEL
Society may breathe a sigh of relief when its offenders are safely placed behind prison
walls, but its responsibility does not end until it has made every attempt to restore the
offender to normal social relationships. The work of the Discharged Prisoners Aid Societies,
discussed in this article, is a neglected but vital element in the rehabilitation process.
Mr. Goel (Tata School, 1940)
is the Probation Officer of the Bombay Presidency Re-
leased Prisoner's Aid Society, Bombay.
IT is a hard fact that society in India has not yet fully realised the reasons for
recidivism, and our people have yet to learn that it is not a psychological
aptitude for crime in a particular man that leads the ex-convict back
to the prison gates. On the other hand it is far too often the absence of a fair
opportunity to enter into a suitable and honest life after release that leads the
ex-convict to offend against society again. While in jail the prisoner gets cut
off from old habits and associations. He is marked with disgrace which
prevents him from normal living. He is cast forth abruptly and without
support to face all the difficulties of life and all the seductions of liberty.
Hence it is that the need for an agency to take care of the discharged prisoner
for such time as may be absolutely necessary before he starts life over again
has become generally recognized.
In India, the Prison Department of the United Provinces can rightly be
styled the pioneer of the movement to aid the prisoner, inasmuch as a fund for
aiding released prisoners called "The Aid To Discharged Prisoners' Fund"
was started there in 1893—the first of its kind in the country. Great leaders
of Indian and Asiatic thought have preached the obligation of helping the
imprisoned and restoring them to normal life. But the carrying out of this
preaching has been left to the individual's charitable instinct. With the
people of India such assistance has been more or less a question of pity or
religious sentiment, rather than a duty to be performed for the individual
prisoner. Even in western countries it was not until the eighteenth century
that society recognized its obligation to those whom it had punished in order to
Although some benefactions and some trusts had previously come into
existence, it was left to John Howard, the great prison reformer, to draw
society's attention to the prisoner's lot and to introduce much-needed reforms
into jails. About the year 1808 the Quakers started a society for released
prisoners. This society may well be styled the parent of all societies which
are now serving the British Empire. The early societies confined their
554 OM PRAKASH GOEL
attention to conditions within prison walls. Experience, however, convinced
them that it was not enough to improve the condition of the prison and the
prisoners, and it came to be realised that "the most terrible moment in a
convict's life is not that in which the prison door closes upon him, shutting
him out from the world, but that in which it opens to admit him to the world:
having lost his character and standing among men, having suffered for months
and years from the deprivation of pleasures to which he was accustomed, and
having but little, if any, money in his pocket to meet necessary expenses."
The necessity, therefore, became recognized of lending the prisoner a
helping hand when he was released, and this led to the formation of discharged
prisoners' aid societies. The English Parliament seems to have taken interest
in this matter since 1792 and one finds that in 1823, 1862, 1865 and 1877,
different enactments were passed, which while maintaining the philanthropic
and charitable origin and aspect of these societies, attempted to encourage
and stimulate their efforts by offering direction and guidance to them. In
order to secure greater uniformity in method and the co-operation of outside
agencies, Mr. Churchill, the then Home Secretary, acting on the report of
the Commissioner of Prisons submitted in 1909, announced in the House of
Commons in July 1910, the formation of the Central Association for the Aid of
Discharged Convicts in England. The Association combined all the existing
societies which were working for the common purpose of aiding convicts on
discharge. It undertakes to provide to every discharged convict a fair pros-
pect of rehabilitation on the day of discharge. This has led to that cordial and
harmonious relationship between official and voluntary efforts, which experience
has proven to be not only the best, but the only effective method, of dealing
with the problem of the discharged prisoner. Uniformity of procedure and an
agreed policy in the pursuit of a common cause has now been achieved and
according to Sir Evelyn Ruggles Brise, K. C. B., the fall in the percentage of
recidivism has been so marked that numerous jail establishments have
As in England, so on the continent, for if one moves from place to place
one finds that Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies are working very success-
fully. The National Assembly of Prance, during the eighties of the last cen-
tury, voted the constitution of Societe Generale des Prisons—a body which has
aroused French public opinion. Germany also has not lagged behind. In
fact no continental administration has viewed with equanimity the vast wastage
of man power that has emerged out of its prison gates.
Turning to the conditions in our own country, the Indian Government
has not been able, for reasons which need not be discussed here, to enlist that
measure of public sympathy for the cause of discharged prisoners which could
AFTER-CARE OP RELEASED PRISONERS 555
have produced appreciable results. Even though the United Provinces Prison
Department had started an Aid To Discharged Prisoner's Fund in 1893, little
was done to aid the prisoners until recently, when in the year 1937 the Con-
gress Government formed the United Provinces Discharged Prisoners' Aid
Society. Bengal, Burma, Madras, the Central Provinces, the Punjab and
other provinces have interested themselves in this movement.
The Punjab Prisoners' Aid Society, which was formed in 1928, has or-
ganized societies in 29 districts and quite an encouraging account is being re-
ceived from each unit. The societies also help the families of prisoners during
the imprisonment of the bread-winner. In the United Provinces, the Society
which was constituted in 1937, has in quite a short period organized district
societies all over the Province. It has appointed seven probation officers and
one Chief Probation Officer to promote the objects of the Society. The Govern-
ment of the United Provinces gives an annual grant of Rs. 14,529/- to the
Society, in addition to which the Society also receives donations from the pub-
lic. Equally creditable work is being done by the Madras Province's Aid
Society. Madras is by far the most efficient and successful province in this
respect. The Society has organized as many as 24 district committees and owns
12 permanent homes for discharged prisoners. This Society is also working
the First Offenders' Act and employs 7 probation officers and one Chief Pro-
bation Officer to assist the Society. The Madras Society derives its financial
support both from the public and Government. In addition to donations and
other public contributions, Government give a grant of about Rs. 11,250/- per
year. The working of the First Offenders' Probation Act has so far given en-
couraging results in Madras.
The general theory of probation may be explained in the words of the
Departmental Committee of the English Home Office 1909:
The Probation Act provides a method by which a person who has offended against the
law, instead of being punished by imprisonment or fine, or in the case of a child, being sent for
a prolonged period to a reformatory or an industrial school, may be brought under the direct
personal influence of a man or woman chosen for excellence of character and for strength of
personal influence ; and lending authority to that supervision, securing that it shall not be
treated as a thing of little amount, the Act keeps suspended over the offender the penalty of
the law, to be inflicted or to be withdrawn according as his conduct during this specified period
is bad or good. Often without friends of their own, more often with friends only of a degrad-
ed type, out of touch with any civilizing influence, the probation officer comes to them from a
different level of society, giving a helping hand to lift them out of the groove that leads to
serious crime. He assists the man out of work to find employment. He puts the lad into
touch with the manager of a Boy's Club, where he can be brought under healthy influences...
Securing for him a respectful hearing and furnishing a motive for the acceptance of his
counsels, there is always in the background the sanction of the penal law—the knowledge
that the Probation Officer is the eye of the magistrate, that misbehaviour will be reported to
the court and will bring its penalty. So great, however, is the influence which a good proba-
tion officer is able to exercise over an offender during the specified period of probation, that
556 OM PRAKASH GOEL
his friendly interest is often sought after that period has expired and his advice continues to
carry weight, although the powers that support it are ended.
The United Provinces and Madras lead in the working out of the First
Offenders' Act. This Act has also been passed in Bombay, but has not
been put into force by Government.
As has already been pointed out, Madras is giving India the lead in
After-Care work. The Madras Society is not content with mere monetary aid
to individual ex-convicts, or even in settling them in useful employment.
The Society has also undertaken the work of supervision of their after life.
After-care on discharge is the pivot of the whole system and is particularly
important in the cases of Certified and Borstal School boys. To carry out
this object, the Executive Committee at Madras and the District Committees in
the mofussil have appointed throughout the province more than a thousand
After-Care Officers. Their duties are:
(1) To visit the persons entrusted to their care as often as possible—at
least once a fortnight.
(2) To make enquiries regarding them of their employers, if they have
any, and their neighbours; mix and talk with them, acquaint themselves with
their difficulties and troubles.
(3) To give all such help, advice and encouragement, as may be neces-
sary to keep them steadfastly in the ways of virtuous living.
(4) To send periodical reports (at least once a quarter) of their pro-
gress to the Committee which appointed them.
The reports of District Committees show that the After-Care Officers
have been paying regular visits to the persons entrusted to their care—the
majority of whom, so it is said, have turned over a new leaf and have settled
down as honest citizens. The Society also sends its agents and secretaries
periodically to interview the prisoners in the jails, with a view to acquaint
themselves with the needs and requirements of prisoners about to be released
and to enable arrangements to be made for settling them in life after their
release. The Secretary himself interviewed more than a thousand prisoners
during the year.
Another item of pre-discharge work which the Madras Society has
undertaken to do in jails is the arranging of lectures and moral instruction.
The Society also gives clothes to the prisoners who come out ill-clad and has
started an experiment in the city of Madras of collecting second hand, but
serviceable clothes, from the more fortunate people and distributing them to
the ex-convicts according to their requirements. The experiment has received
very encouraging response from the public. Although legal assistance to
prisoners does not come strictly within the scope of the objects of the Society,
A F T E R - C A R E O F R E L E A S E D P R I S O N E R S 557
individual lawyer members have rendered useful service to several convicts and
under-trials by defending their criminal cases in courts and in preparing
appeals against their convictions in lower courts.
The Central Provinces and Berar Discharged Prisoner's Aid Society
was registered on 26th September, 1926. This society is fortunate enough to
have a ladies sub-committee, which is divided into three committees (a) the
sewing committee, (6) the literary education sub-committee, and (c) the
magic lantern sub-committee. These sub-committees meet the women pri-
soners in prison once a week, teach them sewing and embroidery, tell them
moral and religious stories and impart information on social and labour
conditions. A magic lantern show is arranged once a week.
The Bengal Prisoner's Aid Society is the oldest in our country. The
most notable feature of the Society is its industrial home, which maintains
book-binding and weaving departments. The average monthly earnings of
the four classes of workmen in the book-binding department were at last
report Rs. 33/12/-, Rs. 26/15/3, Rs. 21/- and Rs. 14/3/- respectively. For
the products of the weaving department the Report suggests that it is very
difficult to get a market. Hence the main advantage of the work lies in giving
work to the unemployed prisoners.
In the Bombay Province there are only three societies. These are in
Bombay, Bijapur and Ahmedabad. The Bombay Society has an agent who
visits a local prison every day and distributes monetary relief to prisoners on
discharge. The Society previously employed an agent to work in the Police
Courts, but he has been withdrawn for want of adequate funds. Only
recently the Bombay Society, with the co-operation of the Rotary Club of
Bombay, has been able to appoint a trained Probation Officer who visits the
three city prisons, makes intimate contacts with prisoners before release,
conducts enquiries about their home conditions and the cause of their delin-
quency and assists in working out a plan for their rehabilitation. A sub-
committee of the Society, called the Case Committee, presided over by the
Chief Presidency Magistrate, supervises the work of the Probation Officer.
It is hoped that the Society may co-operate in working out the First Offenders'
Probation Act and also extend its activities in other directions, such as
Borstal After-Care. The Bombay Society suffers from public apathy and
inadequate Government patronage. The Bombay Government are only
contributing about Rs. 700/- annually, which figure fades into insignificance
when compared to the annual contributions made by the United Provinces
and Madras Governments—Rs. 14,529/- and Rs. 11,250/- respectively.
Normally, well nigh 1,11,342 prisoners annually are admitted into the
Bombay jails, and of these not less than 15 per cent are habituals, The
558 OM PRAKASH GOEL
charge per capita of maintaining a prisoner in jail has been worked out to be
about Rs. 108/- per year. If the Province should maintain a very efficient and
widespread organisation for the aid of discharged prisoners, there is reason to
suppose that the habitual convict population would go down appreciably within
a reasonable period of time, which would mean a substantial relief to the pro-
vincial exchequer. Even granting that there may not be much monetary
saving to begin with, it cannot be denied that the gain on the moral side would
be immense and incalculable in terms of money.
The aims and objects of such an organisation should be :
( a )
to give, as far as may be possible, such help as may be needed on
release, to persons convicted of criminal offences, without distinction of race
) To make efforts to reclaim habitual offenders from a life of crime
and enable prisoners after release to live honest and respectable lives.
To make special arrangements, with the end in view of preventing
casual and juvenile offenders from becoming habitual offenders.
) To promote legislation, and the application of the existing law, to
secure that sentence of imprisonment shall be passed only in cases which
cannot adequately or appropriately be dealt with in any other way.
) To collect funds.
Numerous cases are on record where societies with the above aims ex-
tended kindly reception on release and carried on sympathetic and intelligent
follow-up work which resulted in winning the ex-convict back to society. The
principal help and chief need of many a discharged prisoner consists not so
much in pecuniary aid as in finding a friend and a sympathetic adviser. To
ensure that a permanent reform may take place in the character of the prisoner
it is necessary that germs of morality, conscience and will power be developed
and strengthened into permanent elements of his nature. It is necessary that
the people around him try to understand and befriend him. This work can be
undertaken only by those who have a philosophy which recognises human
personality as a thing to be highly respected. A worker with ex-convicts
should have "virile warmth and the usual number of human impulses, con-
trolled by inhibition. . . . Power to say 'no' to one's selfish demands, power to
refrain from actions which tend to injure others, power of guidance over fear,
anxiety, anger, irritation, resentment, and love, is absolutely essential to a
social worker with delinquents." 1
Or again: "The process (of making good)
includes insight, transference, development of personality and increased social
relationships. It must not be understood that these stages, or levels, have
any arbitrary sequence; they may occur almost simultaneously. In this field
1 Van Waters, Miriam, Youth in Conflict,
AFTER-CARE OF RELEASED PRISONERS 559
there are 'miracles,' i. e., swift transformations of personality which we are
too ignorant to understand . . . Mere provision of 'good conditions,' routine,
better economic and social measures, regimen, good health, opportunities for
companionship and recreation, 'respectability' in the environment, are of
little avail, unless the central springs of the living spirit have somehow been
tapped. The process is usually that of slow natural growth; to build 'moral
muscle' requires time. Impatience for results may lead to disaster. Faith,
tolerance, belief in life, are the chief requisites in the social worker who
wishes to assist young delinquents in 'making good'." 2 And that which is true
of workers with young delinquents is no less true of those who would assist
adult offenders. A social worker with ex-convicts has to take into account their
early life, their work habits, their family history and their vocational fitness.
He has to study the emotional life of the individual, for not only are the emo-
tions the foundation of all practical life, they also enter into abstract intellec-
tual functions in various ways.
The chief object to be kept steadily in view in any efforts to help the
discharged prisoner should be as far as possible to render such assistance as
will further the best interests both of the offender and the community. Direct
aid to this class of persons should consist mainly in endeavours to obtain
employment for them or to stimulate them to self-supporting industry. The
starting of industrial homes or farms for ex-convicts may relieve their problem
to some extent, but as one of England's greatest criminologists points out,
' 'the solution of the penal problem is mainly in the great political considera-
tions which determine trade and thus affect the facility of employment."
Society should, therefore, direct every effort toward securing employ-
ment for discharged prisoners. Discharged prisoners are a class who require
aid, both from the humanitarian standpoint and from the standpoint of the
self interest of the community. The person who has suffered for his miscon-
duct deserves a lift in the direction of honest and useful citizenship. "Every-
body's hand is against him and his hand is against everybody." This is not the
way to social peace. The prisoner on release should be made to feel that so-
ciety still cares for him and that he still has a responsibility toward society.
Though primarily the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies are meant
for after-care work, yet as a background for this work, such societies should,
during the period of imprisonment of a convict, render him all possible help in
such of his domestic concerns as are likely to influence the after-care stage.
For example, his holding, his home and his other assets should, as far as
practicable, be looked after. This work can best be undertaken by the district
tehsil or village societies wherever the prisoner comes from. The question of
560 OM PRAKASH GOEL
assistance to families of persons in jail has been widely accepted as having an
important bearing on the subject of subsequent adjustment. The work of aid
societies in England has been extended to the assistance of wives and families
of men undergoing imprisonment. The possibility of regaining on the part of
the convicted prisoner, his position in society, depends to a large extent on
his finding after release the same state of things prevailing within his family
as at the time of conviction and sentence. A most powerful influence for
restraining him from fresh crime and for inciting him to honesty is the home
influence—the desire to provide for the persons dependent upon him. An in-
evitable depression will overwhelm him if he finds their condition ruined be-
yond restoration. It is no wonder if under such circumstances he may in de-
spair grow reckless and allow himself to be sucked-up in the whirlpool of vice
that is ever eddying around him ! This may be prevented if the Prisoners'
Aid Society assumes the offender's place as the guardian and protector of his
family. As in England and other modern countries, the Society should take
charge of the families of persons sentenced to imprisonment, look after their
welfare, render pecuniary aid where necessary, find employment if required and
offer all necessary advice and assistance, so that the home of the prisoner may
be preserved from being broken up in his absence. The help of the society is
all the more necessary for India where women generally are ignorant and
helpless because of illiteracy and the purdah system.
From the social point of view as well, the integrity of the family is
essential. So long as the family is central in our social organisation, its
preservation is essential also, as the whole cannot live comfortably while
one of its parts is diseased. If an ex-convict is not effectually rescued from
his evil ways and if he is not enabled to earn an honest livelihood, he will
certainly revert to crime and few things are more costly to nations than crime.
An eminent authority says : ' 'A prisoner is a dead loss to the community.
Every time he goes back to prison, this loss occurs. An agency which prevents
his going back is, therefore, saving money to the State. When it makes a
good citizen out of a bad one, or out of one who is no citizen at all, it puts
money, so to speak in the State's pocket. It also to this extent saves the
individual citizen of India from the threat of robbery and other depredation."
The Indian Jails Committee, 1920, also writes in Paragraph 24 of its
R e p o r t : " T h e daily average population of convicted persons m a y b e taken
at about 1,00,000. If it is assumed that the net value of the labour of these
prisoners when at liberty is Rs. 100/- per annum, a. loss to the country through
their detention in prison amounts Rs. one crore per annum. To this must be
added the net cost of guarding, feeding and clothing them in jail, which cannot
be placed at ft lower figure than another one crore per annum. The total loss
AFTER-CARE OP RELEASED PRISONERS 561
to the community is thus two crores a y e a r . " This, of course, does not
include several crores of rupees spent annually on the detection of crime,
police, judiciary and other paraphernalia necessary to bring these criminals
to justice. " T h u s the reformation of the prisoner or the prevention of crime
is one of the cheapest developments of social wisdom and one of the most
genuine operations, of political economy . . . And none-the-less it is a work
of mercy, for a large proportion of criminals are more to be pitied than
blamed, when all their antecedents of heredity, parental neglect, ignorance,
poverty, and privation are fairly weighed and examined. If their origin and
environment had been ours, perhaps we should have needed the sympathy
which we now invite for t h e m . " What is required is a change in society's
outlook towards these unfortunate social outcastes—particularly those convicted
for the first time.
The Asquith Departmental Committee on Prisons (English) 1895, stated:
" T h e habitual prisoner can be effectually put down in one way only and that is
by cutting off the s u p p l y . " One of the surest ways of cutting off the supply is
to give facilities to released prisoners generally, and first offenders particularly,
to rehabilitate themselves. Therefore, the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies
must not only remain alert to helping the ex-prisoner out of his difficulties,
but must also create favourable public opinion towards the cause of ex-con-
victs. In this connection a statement of Mr. Winston Churchill, while he was
Home Secretary, may be quoted with interest : " T h e mood and temper of the
public with regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most
unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm dispassionate
recognition of the rights of the accused and even of the convicted criminal
against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of
punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate to the world of industry
those who have paid their due in the hard coinage of punishment ; tireless
efforts towards the curative and regenerative process; unfailing faith that there
is a treasure if you can only find it, in the heart of every man—these
are the symbols, which, in the treatment of crime and the criminal mark and
measure the stored up strength of a nation and are sign and proof of a living
virtue in i t . "