Thiruvananthapuram: On the face of it, things seem peaceful at the Observation Home in the capital. For almost a year there have been no reports of boys attempting to escape the Home. However, the circumstances that induce inmates to jump the Observation Home, where children in conflict with law are lodged, continue to fester. Convicts in Poojappura Central Jail, a caretaker at the Observation Home said, have more freedom than the children lodged in the Observation Home bang opposite the Central Jail.
The convicts in the Central Jail, even those implicated in serious crimes like murder and rape, are allowed to spend at least a couple of hours outside. But the under-18 inmates of the Observation Home, most of them hauled up for as grave an offence as theft, are incarcerated inside the airless two-room house 24x7.
“The sun and the moon exist only in the imagination of the boys,” the caretaker added. Or on the television the inmates are provided.
According to child rights activist Selma Joseph children should be kept occupied with multiple activities. “If they are not given space for active physical and social recreation, no child can ever be happy,” Ms Joseph said.
Gardening was considered ideal, and the boys had even started planting medicinal plants, but the activity was soon abandoned. A former caretaker at the Home said that the caretakers were unwilling to take the risk of allowing the children outside.
“We have been instructed to let the boys out at least for an hour in the evening, allow them to take a stroll or permit them to play some games. But given the state of the premises, it would be risky. There is so much of foliage around the place that it would be easy for the inmates to sneak out,” the former caretaker said.
Observation Home is a place where children in conflict with law are placed before the juvenile court passes judgement. The Juvenile Justice Act says that trial of children charged with criminal offences should not extend beyond four months. Child Welfare Committee member Sheela said that no children are kept in the home beyond four months.