Parole is an integral part of the correctional process. It is a kind of consideration granted to the prisoners to help them to come back into the mainstream of life. It is nothing but an instrument of social rehabilitation of the prisoner. In recent times, however, the concept has seen a wide shift with parole been utilized by the rich and influential class to escape the prison sentence. Thus, we have the infamous examples of Manu Sharma[i], Bibi Jagir Kaur[ii]or Biti Mohanty[iii]who are enjoying the intermittent bliss of free life, even after committing heinous offences and conviction. In contrast, stands the lakhs of other prisoners, whose pleas of parole fall in deaf ears, and being poor and uninfluential, they do not have means to utilize the process or are unjustifiably refused the benefit on flimsy grounds. The present article is an attempt to revisit the concept of parole, its underlying object, means and processes in the legal system and finally, the issues which are of immediate concern in recent times.
Concept and Philosophy behind Parole
The word ‘Parole’ comes from the French word “je donne ma parole” meaning ‘I give my word’, while the dictionary definition is ‘word of honour’[iv]. The term ‘parole’ was first coined in a correctional context in 1847 by Samvel G. Howe, a Boston penal reformer. Later, Parole was introduced by Brockway Zebulon in the year 1876 as a way to reduce jail overcrowding and at the same time as a way to rehabilitate prisoners by encouraging them to win their way out of prison through good behavior. Parole is rewards granted to prisoners for good behavior, they entail a reduction in the number of years and months one serves in prison[v].
Parole had its root in the Positivist School. The Classical School of thought opined that people are free to choose their own conduct. While committing any crime, an offender always calculates his gain, his pleasure, at the cost of other’s pain. So he must be punished. But the Positivist school argued that it is the circumstance which forces anybody to commit crime. So he must be rehabilitated. From there the thought of parole arose. It provides a second chance to the prisoner to rehabilitate himself. The offender might have committed an offence, but it is not desirable that he always be labeled and must not be given any chance to rehabilitate himself. Its objectives are twofold: the rehabilitation of the offender and the protection of society. It is a means of helping the inmate to become a law-abiding citizen, while at the same time ensuring that he does not misbehave or return to crime[vi].