Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

The Status and Scope of Professional Social Work in Indian Correctional Setting

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

The Status and Scope of Professional Social Work in Indian Correctional Setting

Article excerpt


The role of Social work in prisons is inevitable. Social workers aid correctional institutions in the process of correcting prisoners' behaviour. As mentioned by Devasia and Devasia (1990), social work holds great promise of becoming a useful service for correctional institutions. However, in India, the practice of social work within correctional institutions requires an urgent review. Indian prisons earlier focused exclusively on punishment and are in the process of being converted into correctional institutions with the purpose of reformation and rehabilitation. However, the concept of corrections has gained momentum throughout the last two decades. Prisons in India genuinely started its focus on the concept "corrections", a task for which personnel are prepared and trained through regional and state-level institutions. Over the years, prison reviews, reports and the relevant penological literature emphasised the need to convert prisons into correctional institutions by employing adequate, competent and qualified correctional staff. Presently, the transformation of prisons into correctional institutions is in its infancy stage.

Objectives of this Review

The prisons in India, and the criminal justice system at large, are a legacy of the British. The Indian Criminal Justice System from time to time amends the procedures and policies on a case-to-case an event-to-event basis. A complete review and suitability analysis is needed in the criminal justice system, more generally, as well as for the prisons, more particularly. This article attempts to review, understand and explain the status and role of social work in Indian prisons with the following objectives:

1. To analyze the current status of professional social work in India and in correctional settings

2. To assess and review the reports of various committees and prison manuals of India that emphasize the need and role of professional social workers in prisons and to explain in detail the inevitable role of the social worker in prisons as per the Model Prison Manual for the Superintendence and Management of Prisons in India (Model Prison Manual 2016) (Bureau of Police Research and Development, 2016).

I.Objective One: Social Work in Indian Correctional Setting

Social work in India gained its momentum only during and after 1900. All over the world, social work has reached a significant milestone as it commemorates over a century of professional practice which targeted individual and societal transformation (Popple & Leighninger, 2008). Social work in India has emerged as one of the most demanding professions in India. The concept of professional social work was established in India with the introduction of a course in social work by an American Missionary Sir Clifford Manshardt who became the Founder Director of the first school of social work, known as Tata Institute of Social Sciences [TISS] (2000). This first course on social work was a short-term social service training course organised by the Social Service League, Bombay (Now Mumbai), which ultimately gave birth to the professional social work discipline in India. In fact, the term 'professional social work' emerged to describe the work of individuals who had completed this short-term social service training course. Those who completed the course were employed in a variety of fields such as psychiatric and medical hospitals, industries, as well as human resource development and other related fields like schools and prisons (TISS, 2007-2008).

Earlier in India, social work was primarily understood as a charitable non-paid occupation conducted by individuals or organisations that were driven by humanitarian and religious values, and to that extent were considered as a subsidiary or voluntary activity (TISS, 2007-2008). The professional and systematic approach to social work was developed with the support of the Tata Institute in the early-1930s, through an institution called the "Neighbourhood House". …

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