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Analyzing The Influence Of Rehabilitation In Addressing Recidivism In India

The concept of punishment has been existing right from ancient days. In Ancient India punishment (Danda) was seen as a way to uphold Dharma. It wasn't merely just a matter of religion; it was regarded as a tool to support the society in an organized manner. Man being a social animal have to socialize with people and conflicting interest in society. As the society started to develop and evolve it became necessary to stabilize the society and uphold dharma.

State started to exert power, coercing the code of conduct in a society and established its sovereignty though sanctions in form of punishment. Punishments were seen as the tool to administer justice and way to rectify the wrong done ensuring world happiness.

The ultimate aim of imposing punishment was to save dharma. The power to impose punishment was seen as the prerogative power of the state to preserve the social order. Basically, punishments were seen as a path to keep people straight in harness by imposing corporeal and retributive punishments deterring any capable offender deviating from his moral conduct.

Retributive punishments having their place in Mahabharata can be seen from the words 'To take revenge on him who takes revenge, to retaliate, when struck and to do harm in return for harm'. Contrary to this concept of retribution, Kautilya advocated reformatory ideologies. He viewed crime as a contaminating disease inherent in the societal set up. He was in a parallel line with Aristotle that punishment be imposed to bring in discipline through educating the offender[i].

Justification Of Punishments And Its Practical Effect:

The objectives or grounds for punishment have been described as retaliation, deterrence, and rehabilitation. They all include some degree of pain and loss of freedom. The sort of punishment for retributive and deterrent objectives depends on the nature of the offence, and the type of rehabilitation treatment depends on the offender's personality. When someone is harmed, their natural response is to take revenge. It is retaliation, a means of letting go of and expressing animosity for the offender and his actions. Using his innate urge for self-preservation, primitive man exacted revenge on those who had hurt him or his belongings. \

The victim's retaliation was brutal. He demanded retribution, and until the perpetrator was brought to justice, the victim's inner peace would not be restored. At first, punishment was the responsibility of the individual, but as society advanced, personal vengeance became intolerable, and the individual was compelled to give up his right to deal directly with the offender in exchange for society's promise to punish the offender.

Punishment as a means of gaining revenge merely provides momentary gratification and has no long-term benefits. The penalty does not make right the wrong since it does not restore the life of the deceased victim in case of murder or the money to the victim of a robbery.

Using the offender as a scapegoat only serves to increase tensions between society and the offender, which might eventually harm the entire community. Thus, retribution can be summed up as to victim taking out his aggression upon the wrong doer. The theory disregards the fact that the wrong doer happens to be a victim of unforeseen circumstances leading to mishaps[ii].

The deterrent theory calls for the deterrent effect of punishment upon the potential offenders. The purpose of punishment is to deter future offenders by showing them what will happen if they follow the wrongdoers and to stop the criminal from repeating his actions. Regarding deterrence, the most important thing to consider is how effective it is. There wouldn't be any crime if it worked perfectly. \

However, research indicates that both new offenders and ex-offenders revert to their previous criminal behaviors. Criminals frequently act without thinking through the repercussions. When it comes to crimes motivated by passion, greed, impulse, or terror, deterrence is ineffective. Additionally, deterrence is ineffective when the offender views breaking the rules as his responsibility and duty and does not acknowledge the established norms of behavior.

Punishment often makes the offender more cautious rather than discouraging them from committing crime further. Instead of not acting at all, he will think twice before doing the same crime again and come up with clever ways to avoid getting caught or punished. In this sense, punishment has not changed the offender; rather, it has made him realize how important it is to learn how to avoid being caught-the desire to escape. [iii]

Rehabilitation plays emphasis on sociology and psychology aspect of punishment in crime. The goal of rehabilitation is for the criminal to return with morals and values, as well as a desire to contribute to society, but not withered away or determined to become even more deplorable and cruel. Believing in each person's value and dignity as well as society's willingness to take the time to reclaim them for their own sake�rather than only to prevent them from hurting[iv].

Rehabilitation And Its Influence On Recidivism:

According to Merriam Webster dictionary recidivism is a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behaviors especially relapse into criminal behavior[v].

National Institute of Justice of United States that 'Recidivism is measured by criminal acts that resulted in rearrest, reconviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the person's release'[vi].

In People v Kyamko it was held that recidivist is one who, at the time of his trial for one crime, shall have been previously convicted by final judgment of another crime embraced in the same title of the Revised Penal Code[vii].

Social reintegration programmer's main goals are to give criminals the support and guidance they might require to stop committing crimes, effectively reintegrate back into society, and prevent a relapse into criminal activity Certain factors put offenders at risk and impede their successful reintegration into society are necessary to address in preventing recidivism.

Certain risk variables are dynamic, whereas other risk factors are static. Static risk variables, which include things like an offender's gender, criminal history, age at the time of arrest, and past mental health issues, are characteristics that don't alter over time. On the other hand, actions inside or outside the criminal justice system can address dynamic risk factors[viii].

The dynamic factors include:
  • Social Factor: The influence of the peer groups forces an offender to relapse into criminal activities owning their moral obligations to their peer groups. Their morality towards peer group is prioritized over the expected code of conduct and duty towards the society[ix].
  • Family and upbringing: Ones behavior and value system has its root to family's upbringing. Lack of value inculcation and surveillance paves the way for the deviant behavior. In case of children, when they are left unmonitored by the elders there are high chances for them to indulge in delinquent behavior. When there is not enough scope for reformation of offender by family per se, it's unlikely for him to reform pretty much to be integrated into society. Psychological trauma caused in childhood by abusive parents leads to no motivation for reformation in offenders as they stand unprocessed with trauma[x].
  • Education: Most of the problems in our society as a whole are mostly the result of a lack of education. Paradoxically, poverty arises because only education can produce financial gain, and education costs money. On a certain level, education and schooling assist children build a strong conscience by instilling in them a feeling of discipline and integrity. Without schooling, kids often grow up to be socially aimless and, out of frustration with their situation, eventually stray from acceptable social behavior[xi].
  • Dwelling area: The individuals often commit crimes and face little to no consequences. Naturally, an individual's upbringing shapes their socialization; living in violent and unlawful regions greatly impairs a person's sense of right and wrong, which encourages them to continue their illicit actions[xii].
  • Labelling of offender: Treating someone based on their previous behavior is one of the most prevalent characteristics of humans in general. An ex-convict finds it extremely difficult to reintegrate into society since they are fighting against the stigma and shame of society as a whole. Once out of jail, a prisoner finds it nearly impossible to find employment because of the inevitable stigma associated with their past criminal activity. In addition, such a person is not accepted by society at large, which drives them back into crime.

An ex-convict finds it extremely difficult to acquire employment, which is an extension of the findings of the labelling theory. One is forced to commit small crimes in order to survive due to the circumstances that society has created. Because of the financial instability caused by this kind of unemployment, using dishonest tactics becomes necessary. No matter what kind of work they do, no one willfully hires someone with such a title since it is permanent. This explains why the majority of ex-offenders withhold their identifying information[xiii].

One of the most important pillars of the state is the law. Penalization is necessary to carry out justice, and it is the state's responsibility to create a peaceful environment for its citizens. The criminal systems have undergone entirely different kinds of alterations and modifications as time has gone on.

The goal of punishment, according to the reformative philosophy, should be the criminal's own reform through the individualization approach. Under some conditions, the evil person may commit a crime that they are unlikely to repeat. It is therefore necessary to make an effort to reform him during his incarceration. Penalization should aim to bring about the wrongdoer's ethical change. Throughout his incarceration, he ought to receive instruction and receive an education, enabling him to restart his life upon his release.

The judge should consider a number of criteria while determining the appropriate sentence, including the offender's age and character, his background and education, the conditions in which the offence was committed, and other variables. Therefore, the purpose of doing this is to acquaint the judge with the specifics of the case so that he can assign a penalty that is appropriate for the situation[xiv].

Judicial Inference:
  • Nasri v State of Haryana: The probation shall be granted in every possible case with mitigating factor which shall serve the purpose of deterrence and preventing the offender indulging in crime activity in future. The positive attitude towards the reformation shall be given weightage to reintegrate the offender into society after addressing the cause for his behavior through counselling, treatment and supervision. Probation may help preventing first time offender into a habitual offender thereby preventing the scope for recidivism[xv].
  • Re Nattayyan v. Unknown: It is evident that in order to establish a prior conviction, the Sessions Court must file a charge pursuant to Section 75 of the Indian Penal Code[xvi].
    The Indian legislation deals with the offenders with repeated crime record by enhancing punishments for the offender or by reforming the criminality of the offender during the period of incarceration.
  • Mahomed Hanif v. Emperor: When sentencing an offender, all circumstances that influence a person's behavior during the commission of crime should be taken into consideration. Without taking into account every aspect of the crime and the offenders, a higher punishment cannot be justified only on the basis of prior convictions[xvii].

The Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration case provides an excellent description of what happens inside of a prison and the harm it may do to an individual's moral character. After entering the walls, a prisoner is left alone with their thoughts and has no beneficial activities to perform for years. They are also unable to see anything enjoyable. It defies current thinking to consider how such an environment may aid in a convict's rehabilitation.

The goal of rehabilitation is to transform a criminal into a person who can live within the law and experience normal emotions towards other people. Considering the overcrowding and cruel treatment in prisons, such rehabilitation is nearly impossible in jails like those in India, to start with.

Comparison of Norway prison system and Indian Prison system:

The world's most merciful prison system is said to be Norway's Kriminalomsorgen system. Kriminalomsorgen views rehabilitation and reintegration as the main goals of incarceration. To this end, the Principle of Normality stipulates that a prisoner's life must resemble that of an outsider as much as possible. According to Norwegians, the only penalty for being incarcerated should be losing one's freedom; inmates should not be denied access to any other rights or services that are available to other citizens. Notable among Norway's most well-known prisons are Bastoy and Halden, which are recognized for their opulent facilities and services.

Both the right to vote and the right to study are still intact for Norwegian convicts. Life inside jail while serving a sentence must, according to the Principle of Normalcy, as closely as possible match life outside of prison. Therefore, offenders must be housed in the lowest security regimen that is practical, and no one will spend their sentence in jail under harsher conditions than are required to guarantee the protection of the outside residents.

The reasoning used by Norwegians to support this idea is that the more walled off a prison system is, the more difficult it will be for an ex-offender to reintegrate into society after being released. [xviii] At roughly 20%, Norway has one of the lowest rates of recidivism worldwide. It also boasts the lowest rates of crime worldwide. Norway's prison system is regarded as one of the world's most merciful.

It does not have the death penalty or life in prison. The Norwegian penal system only prioritizes rehabilitation, which may be the cause of lower national recidivism rate. Prison experience has a significant influence on and determination of a prisoner's attitude upon reintegration into society. He is greatly impacted by society's willingness to help him in his work and social activities because it prevents him from feeling abandoned or abandoned and discourages him from turning to crime.

One of the primary features of current institutions in Scandinavian nations, particularly Norway, is openness of presence. It increases the level of trust that exists between the people and the government, which has led to a decline in crime in these nations. In Norway, the goal is to assist formerly incarcerated individuals in reintegrating into society after their release.

To this end, initiatives are in place to assist formerly incarcerated individuals in finding employment and in obtaining a range of social benefits, including housing, social assistance, and disability insurance[xix]. Another idea that's implemented in these jails is normalization. The goal of the government is to keep prison environments as typical as possible.

The inmates benefit from this, which aids in their general process of rehabilitation. The prisoners' sense of duty is also ingrained in them by the transparency that permeates the Norwegian jail system. In jail, inmates occasionally have the freedom to select their own jobs, reflecting the nature of society outside of prison. This aids in their post-release reintegration into society as well. Furthermore, the Norwegian educational system's "import model" offers prisoners the chance to receive instruction from outside teachers.

The current Indian rehabilitation system offers prisoners only education and vocational training. However, recovery entails much more. Offenders are empowered and given the opportunity to reintegrate into society. Inmates must receive instruction in soft skills. It must cover things like helping the prisoner find employment after he is released, offering counselling, attending to his psychological needs, etc.

The Indian jail system is incapable of reforming and rehabilitating its inmates due to a lack of political will, financial constraints, and a lack of emphasis on rehabilitation. Rehabilitating inmates from economically disadvantaged backgrounds is particularly difficult for them[xx]. Though there are various legislations which provides for rehabilitation, such as probation, admonition etc, but the question is that whether these legislative provisions are employed while passing a sentence.

The Indian criminal justice system lacks in aspect of implementation of rights, accused are denied of humane treatment and prison officials don't take much effort in mentoring the offenders as the Norway jail officials do. The condition that the offenders are incarcerated are devoid of rehabilitation opportunity.

SAS Geelani alleges that basic survival is hard inside the walls of the jail, the offenders are treated cruelly denied of basic need like water forcing them to drink their urine[xxi]. Deprived of humane treatment with illegal punishments the prisoners don't worry about reforming themselves, being victim to torture inside the walls of jail and affected by stigma of society after being released they don't place well with reformation.

Why are we unable to achieve the reduced rate of recidivism as Norway has can be summed up by various reasons:
  • Lack of willingness on part of jail authorities to take effort in motivating the prisoners to engage themselves in a positive attitude and take up vocational schemes made available for them inside jail.
  • No proper after care, surveillance, follow ups once the offender is released into society thereby a lacuna on part of having check into relapse of criminal activity by the offender.
  • One significant predictor of recidivism is education. The likelihood of being convicted again falls as education levels rise.
  • The lack of prison system infrastructure, budget allowance with respect to standardizing the jail.
  • No enough training for prison authorities in dealing an offender and lack of qualification requirements while recruiting them which are required to deal offender and try to reform him.

An offender may commit an offence for multiple reasons which may include poverty, lack of education, psychological imbalance, greed, inability to control one's emotions. Trying to rehabilitate him, by reformation must be regarded as main aim rather letting him into society after incarceration as its like letting wild into society having high chances for future crime. Understanding the reasons behind the criminal's actions is aided by rehabilitation.

This knowledge and the assistance offered in this regard may help to stop the offender from reoffending. If the offender received sufficient instruction and training, it may also assist him in leading a regular life after being released. Rehabilitation brings in change in the behaviour of the offender, however by the ego and emotion uncontrolled the offender are likely to commit offence again. Rehabilitation have imperative effect on controlling recidivism rate and must be given more importance to repair the wrong done and damages caused.

  1. R.K. Choudhary & R.K. Chowdhary, Theory of Punishment in Ancient India, 10 Proceedings Indian History Cong. 166 (1947), available at
  2. J. Meyer, Reflections on Some Theories of Punishment, 59 J. Crim. L., Criminology & Police Sci. 595 (1968),
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. (2024). Merriam-Webster Dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Mar. 2024].
  6. National Institute of Justice. (2024). Recidivism. [online] Available at:,sanctions%20or%20undergoes%20intervention%20for%20a%20previous%20crime. [Accessed 28 Mar. 2024].
  7. People v. Kyamko, G.R. No. 103805, 17 May 1993 (Phil.).
  8. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2019). The Prevention of Recidivism and the Social Reintegration of Offenders CRIMINAL JUSTICE HANDBOOK SERIES. [online] Available at:
  9. Jana Yana, 631_PB Article 2 (SNeogy) - Subhasree Neogy, Scribd (2020), available at (last visited Mar. 29, 2024).
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. Ibid
  13. Ibid
  14. Sonakshi Chinda, Reformative Theory of Punishment: Analyzing the Status in India, 4 INT'l J.L. MGMT. & HUMAN. 1114 (2021).
  15. Nasri v. State of Haryana, CRM-A-38-MA-2017 (O&M) (date of decision: July 17, 2023) (India).
  16. (1970) 2 MLJ 66
  17. AIR 1942 Bom. 215
  18. Ryan Berger, Kriminalomsorgen: A Look at the World's Most Humane Prison System in Norway, (December 10, 2016), available at SSRN: or
  19. Manudeep Bhuller, Dahl, G., Lken, K.V., Magne Mogstad and Freeland, C. (2019). What the rest of the world can learn from Norway's prison system. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: [Accessed 29 Mar. 2024].
  20. Manisha Jayanti, Recidivism in India: An Analytical Study, 6 Int'l J. Law Mgmt. & Humanities 3 (2023).
  21. (2024). On the Conditions in Tihar Jail. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Mar. 2024].

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