Jail Probation

Probation System in Historical Perspective; Concept & Scope of Probation and Implementation of Probation System.

Probation as explained in the field of criminal justice is a method of penal non-institutional treatment of offenders, developed as an alternative to imprisonment out of a realization that short term sentences specialty in case of juvenile and youthful offender, were not only ineffective but also harmful, as these brought the young offenders in contact with the confirmed criminal in prison and most of all, removed their fear of the unknown viz. prisons.

Probation is one more step in the progressive realization that the sentence should fit the offenders and not the offence. The sole intension of the legislation in passing probation law is to give persons of a particular type, a chance of reformation which they would not get if sent to prisons. It seeks to bring about desired change of attitude, behavior, character of the convict outside the four walls of prisons.

The traditional concept of crime and punishment has been radically changed in the twentieth century. The focus has now shifted from crime to the criminal. Probation has more important social virtue that it prevents a severance from domestic and family ties and the stigma invariably associated with imprisonment. The focus is on the social justice and human rights. Probation system is a technique of individualized treatment of offenders. “Probation came into existence to some selected types of persons from the rigors of punishment even if found guilty by a court of law”.

It is a therapeutic approach to deal with offenders as individuals rather than as groups. It enables the offender to remain in his home in the community but at the same time under the control and supervision of a probation officer. Thus probation protect the offenders who commit minor offences from the bad effect of prison life where they inevitable associate with brand criminals. So it seeks both to protect society and to help the offender to be more responsible and return to his normal livelihood. The probation system helps the offender to erase the stigma of a criminal from his mind. It helps the offender to come back to the main stream of livelihood. It helps the offender to re-adjust himself with the society through the correctional measures and to lead future life in normal course as a good citizen.

Probation is a modern concept of penology. It is a substitute of jail sentence. ‘Probation’ means the conditional suspension of imposition of sentences by the court in selected cases, especially of young offenders, who are not sent to prison but are released on probation, on agreeing to abide by certain conditions. From judicial point of view probation is a method of treating (correcting) suitable selected offender by realizing him into the community upon certain conditions prescribed by the court on conviction, before sentencing (him) generally under the supervision of
the probation officer. Ideally, probation is granted only after careful investigation and the probationer is subjected to supervision by a public or private organization or by individual. It is a very interesting development in the criminal justice system, wherein within the confines of the penal law and procedures the probation officers place before the judiciary, the socio-economic background, personality, behavior and antecedents of the offenders and the judiciary may decide whether the offender will be benefited by a prison term or can be safely allowed to remain in the community, on certain conditions.

This Act was brought into existence in year 1958. Although Govt. of India had in its mind the enactment of such law as early as in the year 1931 but it could not be passed then for certain unavoidable reasons. However, the provincial governments were left free to have their own laws on the subject on the pattern suggested by Government of India, based on Jails Committee Report (1919-1920). Some provinces enacted their laws which were lacking in uniformity, whereas some had no law of its kind at all. Therefore, a comprehensive law on the subject was passed in year 1958 taking the shape of present Act.

Provisions of Act are based on reformatory theory. A person is important as a citizen to a country because he may prove as citizen of importance making a valuable contribution for the country. In case of petty offence, it was sufficient to release him on admonition. In future he may not dare to commit any offence and devote himself to greater values of life. Then for certain other categories of offence, it was thought to watch his conduct for a certain period and if any breach was found, he was to receive sentences awarded according to law. If not he was to be discharged. Act also imposed restriction on imprisonment of offenders below twenty one years of age and who were found to have committed offences punishable lesser than imprisonment for life. The object of such restriction was to ensure that juvenile offenders should not come in contact with the hardened criminals in jail. The Act has been legislated to implement the reformative theory on the offenders.

The question of release of offenders on probation of good conduct instead of sentencing them to imprisonment has been under consideration for some time. In 1931, the Govt. of India prepared a draft of Probation of Offenders Bill and circulated it to the then Local Governments for their views. However, owing to pre-occupation with other more important matter the Bill could not be proceeded with. Later in 1934, the Govt. of India informed Provincial Governments that there was no prospect of Central legislation being undertaken at the time and there would be no objection to the provinces undertaking such legislation themselves. A few provinces accordingly enacted their own probation laws.

In several States, however, there are no separate probation laws at all. Even in States where there are probation laws, they were not uniform nor are they adequate to meet the present requirements. In the meantime, there has been an increasing emphasis on the reformation and rehabilitation of the offender as a useful and self- reliant member of society without subjecting him to the deleterious effects of jail life. In view of the widespread interest in the probation system in the country, this question has been re-examined and it is proposed to have a Central law on the subject which should be uniformity applicable to all the States.

It is proposed to empower Courts tom release an offender after admonition in respect of certain specified offences. It is also proposed to empower Courts to release on probation, in all suitable cases an offender found guilty of having committed an offence not punishable with death or imprisonment for life. In respect of offenders under 21 years of age, special provision has been made putting restriction on their imprisonment. During the period of probation, offenders will remain under the supervision of probation officer in order that they may be reformed and become useful members of society.

The Probation of Offenders Act has been enacted in view of the increasing emphasis on the reformation and rehabilitation of the offenders as useful and self-reliant members of society without subjecting them to deleterious effects of jail life. The empowers the Court to release on probation, in all suitable cases, an offender found guilty of having committed an offence not punishable with death or imprisonment for life or for the description mentioned in Secs.3 and Secs. 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act. However, in an offence of a trivial nature of the respondents is stated to have committed and keeping in view its peculiar circumstances, it is a fit case where power under Sec.3 of the Probation of Offenders Act can be exercised.

  • Duties of Agencies Concerned for Application of the Social Welfare Legislation like the Probation of Offender Act, 1958:(a) Courts, (b) Probation Officer, (c) Police, (d) Prisons, and (e) Community.
  • Essence of Probation:(a) Probation is a method of dealing with offenders, (b) Probation is a method which is applied on a selective basis, (c) Probation involves conditional suspension of punishment, and (d) Probation involves supervision and treatment.
  • Objective of Probation:The object of the probation of offenders Act, 1958 is to prevent the youthful offenders from association with hardened Criminals of mature age. The object is to consonance with the present trend in the field of penology. It affords an opportunity to the circumstances of the case, the nature of the offence and the character and antecedents of the offender to reform himself.
    The object of probation, as of all methods of treatment is the ultimate reestablishment of the offender in the community. But probation involves the discipline of submission by the offender, while at liberty, to supervision by probation officer. It thus, seeks both to protect society and the strengthen the probation-resources so that the offender becomes a more responsible person. Unlike custodial treatment, which by removing the offender from his family and community tends to suspend his social and economic obligations to them, probation exacts from him a contribution within the limits of his capacity, to their well being”
  • Probation Enquiry:The Probation Officer is on duty bound to conduct preliminary enquiry in regard to the home surroundings, criminal records, different qualities of character, family background and social history of the guilty person and submit enquiry report to the court. The Probation Officer inquire in accordance with any direction of a court into the circumstances or home surroundings of any person accused of an offence with a view to assist the court in determining the most suitable method of dealing with him and submit report to the court.
  • Probation Supervision:Whereas the pre-sentence investigation report is a basic tool in the hands of the Judges/ Judicial Magistrates in sentencing the offender, the supervision of the probationers is the mean by which the offender’s broken life or ill-directed life and mental health are altered by a “Social Surgery” to help them return to normal peaceful life in society. That is why every probation statute provides supervision of the probationers. The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 provides also the supervisions in section 4 (3) of the Act.
    The major objectives of supervision of probationers may be classified into three categories. These are: – (a) Control the probationers to make him conform his conduct to the conditions of probation bond and the requirements of law during the period he is under supervision, (b) Treatment to attempt a change of the probationer’s anti-social behaviour through counselling and referral to other sources of the community for return to normal life, and (c) service to the probationer by assisting the probationer or his family to overcome his problems.
    The probation services that treatment of the probationer is the primary object of probation supervision. The treatment during probation supervision may be divided into three broad categories as stated below:(I) Social Surgery:(i) Study the Probationer, (ii) Diagnosis of the problems of the Probationers.(II) Reality Therapy:(i) Personalizes, (ii) Reveals self, (iii) Concentrates on the ‘Here and Now’, (iv) Emphasizes Behaviour, (v) Rarely Asks Why, (vi) Help the person Evaluate His Behaviour, (vii) Helps him develop a better plan for further behaviour, (viii) Reject Excuses, (ix) Offers no tears of sympathy, (x) Praises and Approves responsible behaviour, (xi) Believes people are capable of changing their behaviour, (xii) Tries to work in groups, (xiii) Does not give up, and (xiv) Does not label people.(III) Behaviour Therapy/ Modification:
    The Services to the Probationers may broadly be classified into the following heads : ( a) Developing the approved standards of social behaviour within the probationer, (b) Making arrangements for treatment of probationers who need psychological, psychiatric or narcotic treatment, and (c) Helping the probationer for rehabilitation etc. 
    The techniques of probation supervision: (a) Office Interview, (b) Home Visiting, (iii) Psychotherapy, and (iv) Mail Supervision.
  • Rehabilitation of Probationers:Probation seeks to accomplish the rehabilitation of person convicted of crime by returning them to society during a period of supervision rather than by sending them into the unnatural and too often, specially unhealthful atmosphere of prisons and reformatories. The main objective of probation is social rehabilitation of probationers through probationary supervision. The essence of probation system lies in the fact that the offender is not merely given “another chance” but the society provides him with constructive assistance in his struggle for social rehabilitation.
  • Allied Works: -In addition to normal probation works under the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act,1958, and West Bengal Probation of Offenders Rules,1960 the probation officers of West Bengal are to perform the following duties/works (statutory and administrative)
    (a) Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and West Bengal Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules2003. (b) Supervision on the convicts released temporarily on parole from the Central/District/Open/Women Correctional Homes and submission of report thereafter as per instruction of the I.G. (C.S), West Bengal. (c) Sociological enquiry in regard to the desirability of premature release of the life convict having regard to his family and social background, acceptability by his family members and the society, etc, submission of report/ recommendation to the State Sentence Review Board, West Bengal. (d) To works in regard to Social as well as economic rehabilitation of the convict to be released/ convict after release from correctional homes as per instruction of the I.G. (C.S.), West Bengal by which the released convict may get scope to lead a meaningful life as a good citizen. (e) To work as neglected juvenile in care and need. (f) To cause enquiry for the boys/girls etc who are kept into the custody of the authority concerned of the state outside West Bengal. (g) To cause enquiry for temporary custodian of a baby/ for life-long custodian of a baby/ on adoption and supervision thereafter and report to the appropriate authority. (h) To visit District Correctional Home & Women Correctional Home and counsel convicts for their correction.

Administrative Set-up of Probation Branch, under Department of Jails, Govt. of West Bengal

  • Principal Secretary, Department of Jails, Government of West Bengal
  • Inspector General (Correctional Services), West Bengal
  • Chief Probation Officer, West Bengal
  • Probation Officer

Following social legislations have been dealt by the Probation Section:

  1. The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 (XX of 1958).
  2. The West Bengal Probation of Offenders Rules, 1960.
  3. The Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  4. The West Bengal Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Rules, 2002.
  5. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

(Source: Probation Officer, Jails (Probation) Department, Purulia)