PRAJA Penal Reform and Justice Association.
2003
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Aims and Objectives of PRAJA

PRAJA's Aims and Objectvies as set out in its mandate include:

  • Implementing international human rights instruments with regard to penal law and its enforcement through State institutions
  • Recommending changes that will bring fairness and equity in the criminal justice systems and eliminating discrimination in the dispensation of justice particularly for weak and vulnerable groups in society (poor, old, women, juveniles, etc)
  • Questioning the overuse and promoting the rational and constructive use of prisons by reducing overcrowding, improving prison conditions and exploring alternatives
  • Promoting the spread of good practices and encouraging social reintegration
  • Focusing on victims of crime
  • Exploring non custodial sanctions like community service
  • Gathering support for the abolition of the death penalty
  • Disseminating information about penal issues to increase awareness about crime, penal laws and their enforcement in the community

A vital part of PRAJA's reserach and work agenda relates to highlighting the fact that a prison is as much an institution of the State as courts or the police. Yet its management and administration is neglected both by the State and by society for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the fact that it is inhabited mostly by the poor and powerless

One of PRAJA's main concerns is specialised studies of various aspects of the prison, and more particularly the damaging effect of "locking up" on vulnerable groups such as women (and the young children who may be with them), the young, the old, the socially and economically deprived or marginalised, and disabled and mentally unstable.

PRAJA works with such government and non-government agencies in India and overseas as have made the issue of penal reform their primary objective in the following ways:

  • Providing fully researched ideas and documents about the prison – its limitations and drawbacks
  • Analysing the lives of those who are locked inside as offenders and those who work inside as staff
  • Focusing attention on 'special categories' or vulnerable groups in prison such as women, juveniles, the old and infirm, and mentally disturbed
  • Demonstrating how many of the (common) problems relating to prisons and penal justice have been handled in other parts of the world
  • Revealing through in-depth research projects details about the relationship and connection between crime prevention and poverty reduction, and between the neglect of human rights in society and in the institutions of justice

PRAJA's projects, and its joint work with partners in other countries have demonstrated both the futility and damaging effects of locking up people for small and big offences alike. The exploration of 'alternatives to prison' is high on the PRAJA agenda.

One of PRAJA's goals is to assist offenders to lead law-abiding lives when they leave prison. A thoughtful assembly of prison practices, programmes, and regimes is recommended so that prisons are not built and based on either obsolete or vindictive philosophies that do no good for either the victim of a crime or for the society.

PRAJA is working towards the wider goal of equitable and accessible justice. It believes this is only possible if there is wide consensus in society about the purposes and methods of providing justice.

PRAJA also believes that the goal of equitable and accessible justice cannot be realised without social justice, and that there is a strong link between prisons and poverty.