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Prisons: Hope Prevails

Nov 6, 2010 2:40:25 PM - thesundayleader.lk

This is regarding the article on ‘Prison Reforms’ by Minister D.E.W Gunasekera in your issue of October 31, 2010.

Please permit me to express the following connected observations, though not exhaustive.

Some of the measures contemplated by the Minister, among others, are in the right direction. Hope he is allowed to implement them as desired.

1.    The community service as an alternative to either imprisonment or fine in appropriate cases has to be encouraged for various progressive reasons which need not be emphasised. One thing is certain, Social Sanction is still an applicable reason why people obey the law, in spite of various corroding and eroding interpolations. Another development is subsidy has created lazy louts out of active workers and people are not willing to do an honest day’s work because they can live without working.

2.    Keeping the convicted offenders (habitual criminals, those in active criminal life, the IRCs) and alleged offenders (remand prisoners) together is to be done away with by the Minister’s proposals. The latter are there because the prosecutors are not ready or unable to proceed for various reasons, maybe pressure, maybe lack of man power, maybe names are dropped putting fear into the investigator who wants to live with his family in that neighbourhood and so on. An adversarial system has to yield to a more proactive judicial system, where the judges can see through and dispense justice. We are yet to emulate the good things happening in other more progressive and developed countries. A little bit of eclecticism is the need of the hour.

3     As for reforming the personnel it is more than a Herculean Task, and cannot be done in isolation. It has to be on a holistic basis involving all the “players” from top to bottom, left to right and even deep within.

4.     We follow at least four major religions of the world. Yet our behaviour is far from religious; steeped in irreligious pursuits and performances. Our country is well endowed, where every prospect pleases, and least said about its men and women is best.

5.     Philanthropists were trying to bail out fined offenders. This  should not be encouraged. The offender will never feel the remorse and being under obligation may become a tool in the hands of the exploiters who come in as deliverers.

R. Suntharalingam