No second chance for hardened criminals

The Parliament has shown maturity in passing the amendments to the JJ Act.

It is important to understand that juvenile crime is an outcome of violent culture in the society and family. It is seen that the children who go through tough times so much so that it shakes their mind, react in a violent manner. Also this internalisation of violence against women creates an understanding in children that violence is way to control women and makes for superiority of masculinity. That is why sometimes we see very young children engaging in heinous crimes like rape and murder.

While all the other kinds of crimes like theft and physical violence, including abuse, can be seen as something which can be reformed, rape combined with murder is not a crime of juvenile nature. If it is not controlled and unless a strong message through stringent law is not sent to the society that such crimes are severely punishable, we will see more and more such incidents as is evident from the official data.

The rule of law is fundamental to any country but if its legal framework is not strong enough to respond to social realities then definitely aberrations start emerging and it creates a social imbalance. One such imbalance reflects clearly in the way women are targeted by inflicting violence, abuse, sexual harassment, stalking, bullying. This starts bringing in a misogynistic culture and, unless it is strongly dealt with, with every possible correction or intervention, it starts creating more and more void and the society becomes a space where it does not give equal life to women.

Therefore, it is extremely important to do everything starting from changing family norms and values to creating a strong legal framework to protect women against violence and protect the rights of women and allow them to live a violence-free life. Recently we observed a fierce debate in the change in the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, both outside and inside the Parliament. While some critics viewed it as child rights vs rights of the women, I don’t think it is the right perspective because if there is no violence against women, children will also see the value of a non-violent lifestyle. So it is important to understand that any form of violence against women will have to rejected in order to protect child rights.

However, the Parliament has shown maturity in passing the amendments to the JJ Act. This sends a very strong message of no tolerance for heinous crimes against women. Even if these amendments are not effective retrospectively in case of Jyoti Singh, it is a good gesture to show accountability towards people, especially her parents. Also the amendment ensures that the review will be done by the Juvenile Justice Board before it is referred to the normal procedure or the IPC.

It is also being emphasised that the reform process should be institutionalised because so far, ironically, in spite of JJ homes, no reform happened to the juvenile offender in Jyoti Singh’s case according to the High Court and Supreme Court judgments, and he is supposed to be kept under a NGO’s care for reformation. Therefore it is extremely important to create proper scientific methods by appointing psychologists, psychiatrists and sociologists to take such criminals child offenders through a proper reformation process before bringing them back into society.

I believe that even hardened criminals can be reformed and people should be given a second chance because even the conditions in our society due to poverty — huge neglect, exploitation of children — are prevalent and therefore children living under such circumstances have a lot of anger, frustration and feel a need for revenge. Therefore we do see a direct relationship between mindset and socio-economic status and education. Unfortunately, we still have a large number of children out of school who also have bad experiences in their childhood and become criminals themselves.

Let’s take a look at the experiences of the juvenile who has been released without having gone through the reform process as even the high court wants him to be under supervision. If we see his mindset — he was only three months away from turning 18 when he committed rape. According to Jyoti Singh’s mother, he was the one who was responsible for inserting the rod inside Jyoti and pulling it out, which resulted in damage to her intestines due to which she died.

In my opinion, reform only is possible when the person is ready to change, when the person is prepared for it. In his case it is evident that not only he was aware of the crime he was committing but also, after having committed it, he justified it in his interview. How can he be given any benefit of doubt and say that he is a juvenile?

Second chance is also acceptable but not for hardened criminals. Criminologists have defined criminal mindsets as where the criminal is aware and feels satisfied by inflicting extreme brutality. So, second chances must be given to people who are ready for reform.

(The author is Director, Centre for Social Research)

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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