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COMMUNITY SERVICE – AN ALTERNATIVE TO IMPRISONMENT

AUTHOR- SAI DARSHAN PATRA, GALGOTIAS UNIVERSITY, GREATER NOIDA.

Abstract

Community Services are an intrinsic part of social life in the US, while in India it is still in its early phase with very few opportunities available at the school level. To date, Community Services have not been properly implemented in India. As per the current law, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provides alternatives to jail terms. Research shows that community service not only benefits the public at large and presents as a viable option in cases of minor offenses but also avoids overcrowding in prisons. Often when a person does a minimal crime, he/she gets the punishment of being behind the bars or by being penalized. Also, 15 days of imprisonment may not harm a lot but can change the mentality of the person as he/she resides with criminals all around. He/she can set and spread criminal links within themselves which can be more drastic. So, involvement in community services can help the person being a better one by serving people and contributing something to society. So, by promoting community services as an alternative punishment one can bring an actual change in society. We can start it from simple tasks like serving people in slum areas or feeding helpless beggars at temples. By this act not only we can help the community, but also, we can help the person to revive himself and to be a better human being.

Year - 2016

No. of prisons - 1,412

The actual capacity of prisons - 3,80,876

No. of prisoners at the end of the year - 4,33,003

The occupancy rate at the end of the year - 113.7%


Year - 2017

No. of prisons - 1,361

The actual capacity of prisons - 3,91,574

No. of prisoners at the end of the year - 4,50,696

The occupancy rate at the end of the year - 115.1%


Year - 2018

No. of prisons - 1,339

The actual capacity of prisons - 3,96,223

No. of prisoners at the end of the year - 4,66,084

he occupancy rate at the end of the year - 117.6% [1]

Considering the present situation, there are many problems regarding prisons. There is a lack of space in prisons because of less prison quantity which then leads to over-crowding in prisons which later causes serious damage to health conditions. Also, they build their connections across their prison mates which later creates a horrible situation across the globe.

Also, many prisoners don’t deserve to be imprisoned because a small period of imprisonment like a period of 2-3 months is not a big period of imprisonment but this small period can affect a lot to the person’s mental state. They develop a criminal mind setup by living and connecting with different criminals at a time. Because there is a world outside the prison containing some people who never think twice before talking nonsense about people and start to spread the hatred about people, it affects the social life of a person. And that forces them to be a bad person. For example, when a small scale businessman gets out of being imprisoned for 2 months for breaking a minimal law, he gets a prefix added to his name by the public called “offender”, “criminal”, “thief”, etc. and that will affect a lot to his business, which will lead to a full stop to his source of income. Being not able to start his business again, he will go to find a job for him. But due to his police records, no company will recruit him which will bring him to poverty. At last, when he will face difficulties managing his basic requirements i.e. FOOD, SHELTER, AND CLOTH, he will change his way from living a life of dignity, happiness, and prosperity to a life of a thief, robber, criminal, and lots above. At this stage, he will use his criminal contacts which he made during his time of imprisonment. Here, I am not saying that everyone should be free from being imprisoned, I am saying that according to me, first-time petty offenders should be punished with the ALTERNATIVES TO IMPRISONMENT.

There are many types of alternatives to imprisonment. Some of those are Correctional supervision, House arrests/electronic monitoring Probation Verbal sanctions such as warning, Economic sanctions and monetary penalties, such as fines and day-fines, Restitution to the victim or a compensation order and many more. One of them is Community Services. Here in community services, lawbreakers have to serve to a community i.e. a particular village or in a temple or anything that is done in social favor. This can be used by the law as an alternative to imprisonment. Also, by doing this, a person can develop a good habit of behaviors and responsibility towards society.

Community Service is an alternative the court may use when it has decided that a person’s offense is serious and that he/she is suitable for making compensation by productive unpaid work in the community. Community Service should be physically and emotionally demanding of the offender in that it is a restriction of freedom, involves self-discipline and respect for others, and should engage the offender in tasks or situations that challenge his/her attitude, experience, and ability.

Community service can, therefore, be a positive way of making an offender compensate for offenses and it can encourage personal growth and self-respect. It shows the offender that the community is affected by criminality and the community can see that offenders can make a constructive rather than destructive contribution to the community[2]

The first initiatives in the Community Service Orders started with the National sensitization seminar that was held in 2002 and attended by Regional Governors, line Ministries, Home Affairs, and Justice, Prisons and Correctional Service, and heads of Criminal Justice System.[3] The proposed Bill on Community Service Orders in Namibia introduces various provisions that may facilitate the implementation of Community Service Orders in the country. It is important to note that from a sentencing point of view, Community Service Orders is an option employed in appropriate cases to keep an offender out of prison. Accordingly, a relationship exists between the imprisonment that might have been imposed and the Community Service Order that is to be served instead.[4]

[1] Prison Statistics India–2018 – NCRB, https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/Executive-Summary-2018, (last visited July 5, 2020) [2] ZNCCS Service, 1997, p. 4 [3] Coordinator, Consultative Visit Report, 2002, p. 1 [4] Coordinator, Namibia Community Service Orders, Manual, 2005, p. 5


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