No redemption for boys in observation home

No redemption for boys in observation home

About 50 inmates of the Government Observation Homes for Boys in Madiwala are packed into one dormitory with a single toilet.

A place, supposed to reform juvenile delinquents, has turned into a grimy little nook where youngsters held for their crimes get sick or become hardcore criminals.

About 50 inmates of the Government Observation Homes for Boys in Madiwala are packed into one dormitory with a single toilet. Not that there are no rooms, but they cannot be spread out into different rooms because there is a shortage of monitoring staff, an activist told this reporter on condition of anonymity.

This reporter paid several visits to the state-run home and met with the juveniles doing time for sexual crimes, murders and thefts. The inmates complained that they are not provided good food and education, leave alone counselling.

A 16-year-old boy doing time for killing his brother-in-law was making coffee for the superintendent in the kitchen, while his fellow inmates sat in a hall that resembled a volleyball court with a raised net. But there was no ball around for them to play.

What the Juvenile Justice Act says... 

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, requires observation homes to provide nutritious food, education, skill development, counselling and recreation, including sports and cultural activities.

An inmate, Kumar (name changed), said they fall sick frequently due to contaminated drinking water. Shortage of staff meant the boys have to cook, wash vessels and clean the place. No sports or recreational activities for them.

Sharmila Kumar, an inmate’s mother, said packing the juveniles into a single room has led to some senior boys assaulting the younger ones. Also, convicts and undertrials are kept in a single room, against the manual and rules of the remand home.

Alarmingly, boys walking free from the correctional home gravitate towards bigger crimes by staying in touch with their mates, who form gangs after their release.

“Some boys freed recently contacted my son and wanted him to join them for a robbery. We can’t say anything to him right now. The rehabilitation home has spoiled him,” Sharmila said.

Kripa Alva, former chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said the juveniles remained tight-lipped when she visited the home a few months ago. “I will go on a surprise visit the next time and talk to each juvenile to know their problems,” she said.

Women and  Child Development minister Jayamala Ramachandra said she was not aware of the issue, but vowed to visit the place and set things right.

Kamala, superintendent of the home, refused to comment on the irregularities and the pathetic condition of the establishment.

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