Educating the criminal mind: Tihar shows a way out

By Amiya Kumar Kushwaha,

New Delhi : Criminal behavior can be changed by imparting education. Towards this, the capital’s Tihar Jail, one of the largest in Asia, is vigorously conducting a literacy campaign among its teeming inmates, 20 percent of whom are unlettered and a staggering 65 percent have not even studied till Class 10.

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Observing that the “lesser the literacy the more the crime seems to be the trend,” prison authorities are conducting various education programmes to raise the awareness level of its inmates and broadening their mental horizons away from their criminal past.

“As per data compiled, the majority of the prison population (around 65 percent) has education below Class 10, thus providing the linkage between educational standard and criminality,” an official of Tihar Jail told IANS.

The official added that the illiterate population of 20.68 percent would have been much higher but for the jail’s literacy programme.

Most of the prisoners in th illiterate category are newcomers.

The prison administration has set up centers of the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to impart education to prisoners.

The official said that adult education classes are being conducted in the 10 sub-jails in the prison that has 13,552 prisoners.

Among the convicts and undertrials, the maximum number are accused of rape and murder. Over 33 percent convicts, and over 24 percent undertrials are in jail in murder charges, while over 13 percent of both categories are in jail for rape.

According to Tihar data, at the time of admission, more than 19 percent of the males and 36 percent of females were illiterate, while 44 percent of males and 34 percent females have not passed Class 10.

However, around five percent of the males and six percent of the females are graduates while one and three percent in each category are postgraduates.

“The prison administration in 2013 started stenography courses and foreign language classes in French, Spanish and German, as well as in Hindi and English to build self- confidence among the prison inmates,” said Director General of Prisons Vimlaa Mehra. The prison inmates are also being trained in hotel management in collaboration with the tourism ministry.

Mehra said that campus placements are also being organised to provide job opportunities to the qualified inmates to help them earn a respectable livelihood and keep them away from crime after their release.

Jail officials also encourage inmates to participate in activities like poetry and essay writing to bring out their creativity, she said.

(Amiya Kumar Kushwaha can be contacted at [email protected])