Prayas – Field Action Project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Prayas, a  project of the Centre for Criminology and Justice, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, has been working with under trial prisoners, children of women prisoners, children in conflict with law, women rescued from commercial sexual exploitation and their children since the last 27 years.

From its beginnings of working with male and female youth under trial prisoners in Mumbai Central Prison, it has expanded its operations across geographies as well as target groups. Today, it works both at the field as well as policy level, through its various interventions. It continues to engage with vulnerable groups and advocates for changes in policies governing the many aspects of the Criminal Justice System (CJS), especially related to legal rights and rehabilitation of persons processed by the CJS.

The team comprising social workers, teachers, and administrative staff under the guidance and leadership of Dr. Sanober Sahni, founder and currently Project Advisor, Prayas, and Dr. Vijay Raghavan, Professor, Centre for Criminology and Justice, TISS and Project Director, Prayas.

Outreach to male youth prisoners (2015-16)
Outreach to women prisoners (2015-16)
Outreach to children of women prisoners (2015 - 16)

Development Done Under Prayas

In 2014, a report filed by Prayas brought to the notice of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Bombay High Court, the conditions of the children of women prisoners both living with their mothers in prison as well as separated from them due to their imprisonment. It highlighted the deplorable environment that both these groups had to endure and made recommendations for better facilities. Taking cognisance of this issue, Hon’ble Justice Shri V. M. Kanade, the then chairperson of the JJC, converted the report into a Suo Moto PIL and appointed Dr. Raghavan as the Amicus Curae in the case.

While the case is still being heard, the following important orders have been passed:

  • The Department of Prisons, Police, Women and Child Development (DWCD), Social Justice, Health and Minorities Development to file a reply to the suggestions made by Prayas in the PIL.
  • The Court has asked the Home Department to submit a report specifying the number of children of women prisoners left outside in the state of Maharashtra and in need of support.
  • The Department of Prisons and DWCD have filed affidavits accepting most of the suggestions made by Prayas.
  • Anganwadis under the ICDS have been set up in 5 prisons by the DWCD for children of women prisoners living with their mothers in prison.
  • The Maharashtra Police have issued guidelines to police stations across the state to ensure that children of women prisoners in need of support be produced before the child welfare authorities so that their rights are protected.
  • The grant in aid to released prisoners has been increased from Rs. 5000/- to Rs. 25000/- by the DWCD.
  • The legal aid honorarium for lawyers on the free legal aid panel has been increased substantially to recruit better quality of lawyers in the legal aid panel.

At the initiative of Prayas, an MoU has been signed between the Government of Maharashtra (Home Department) and the Tata Trusts, to implement a Pilot Project in select prisons of Maharashtra. The project namely ‘Welfare and Rehabilitation of Prisoners: A pilot demonstration in Central Prisons of Maharashtra’, is a demonstration of social work intervention with under trial and convicted prisoners and their families leading to the benefit and rehabilitation of prisoners in five (5) Central Prisons and a Borstal School.

Prayas has been appointed as the knowledge partner in the three-year Pilot Project by the Tata Trusts. Prayas is a member of the Project Implementation and Monitoring Committee chaired by the Addl. DG and IG of Prisons, Maharashtra to ensure smooth and proper implementation of the pilot project. The project has been started in February 2017 and the social workers appointed in the project are currently undergoing their induction training of 15 days at TISS, organised by Prayas.

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