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Turning Their Life Around

There is a solid consensus on one key issue: Reducing crime and decreasing reoffending rates. One need not be a scientist to realize that leaving the former inmates and their dear ones to their own devices is not an option
 There is indeed a vast difference between crime syndicates dealing in huge volumes of narcotics and drug pushers.  There is indeed a vast difference between crime syndicates dealing in huge volumes of narcotics and drug pushers.

When it comes to fatherhood and serving time in prison, “the world has as real  problem,” says a social expert and Iran is no exception.  Sohail Dehdashti is of the view that families of those serving time in jail must be helped in all possible ways.

Echoing calls from his peers and charities involved in helping prisoners and their families  in the country , he is of the opinion that those incarcerated are “not normally connecting with their families for obvious reasons” both behind bars and after release. “If not helped they are likely to reoffend,” he told a meeting to NGOs this week.

According to data published in April Iran’s prison population is 210,000 And the number of women is three percent. Driving the point home, the social activist  says “Let’s make one thing clear. A father in prison is a very painful and undesirable childhood experience. Add to this the shame, stigma and trauma of the children and you have a crisis of major proportions. This is where the state, charities and NGOs come in.”

Welfare organizations are overwhelmed due largely to the fact that they cannot handle the increasing prison population, which is inundated not by killers and criminals but populated by financial offenders and drug smugglers and pushers.

It is worth mentioning that lawmakers over the past several weeks have called for reforms to the penal code for drug offenses in order to cut the incarcerations. This reform is a long time coming albeit it has both supporters and opponents.

Dehdashti is of the opinion that “there is indeed a vast difference between crime syndicates dealing in huge volumes of narcotics and drug pushers wanting to make ends meet. The law can and must take this reality into consideration.”

Hojjatoleslam Meisam Alipanah, member of the Assembly of Charities Helping Families of Inmates told a meeting Monday that “helping the poor and needy is strongly recommended by our faith.”

Stressing the need for financial assistance to the families of those behind bars that are almost always at the lower end of the economic ladder, the cleric said, “Helping these families is essential and we must not differentiate between the children of inmates and our own children.”

Charity and giving for humanitarian causes is “a major contributor both in easing the plight of those in need and curbing social vulnerabilities,” the IRIB news portal quoted him as saying.

On the same wavelength Alipanah cautioned that “while extending help to the families of inmates their honor and dignity must be upheld” at cost.

Other speakers at the meeting of philanthropists and benefactors also emphasized the need for creating jobs for prisoners after their release.

  Monumental Problems

Another cleric, Hojjatoleslam Hamadani (first name not available) reminded the participants of the problems of former inmates in finding work. “Most prisoners face monumental problems in getting a job after release. It is up to the charities and benefactors to create conditions that will be compatible with the aim of putting the former inmates on payrolls and thus help their families.”

During the meeting it was pointed out that thousands of prisoners are released every year in the country and need to get back on their feet and play a positive role for their families and the society at large.

Many, if not most, do not know where to start from after returning to normal life and it is up to the state and social policymakers along with community leaders to come to their aid, experts said at the meeting.

“The families of inmates must not be punished like the prisoners. There should be a clear distinction between the two,” Bahman Dan said, according to the news agency. Prejudice, intolerance and stereotyping have never helped and can never right a wrong, come what may.

He warned that “Complacency is not an option. If issues related to the employment for the former prisoner and his family are not addressed effectively, then they will certainly face poverty and chronic financial needs.”

If these critical social ills are not addressed, and start piling up, both the government and people will “find it extremely difficult, if not impossible” to move forward without paying a higher social price, the meeting was told.

Dehdashti and most criminal experts have a consensus on one key issue: Reducing crime and decreasing reoffending rates. One need not be a social scientist to realize that leaving the former inmates and their dear ones to their own devices is obviously not an option.

Let there be no mistake. Policymakers can continue to postpone the inevitable.

Some may waffle and others may indulge in the business of clichés and rhetoric. But the problem of prisoner rehab and bringing them back to real life issues is indeed one critical area where the line has to be drawn.

The large number of organizations responsible in this sphere of social rehabilitation and development funded by the state should stand up and defend their performance in front of critical public opinion. We can afford not to do this at our own peril.

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