The gradual application of The Probation of Offenders Act to prevent and control crimes is a good progress. It is important to take into consideration the age and surrounding environment while punishing offenders. The word probation comes from Latin 'probo'. Probation means I can prove my ability. This ability means utilizing an opportunity of correcting mistakes. The citizen will prove that he or she is not a breaker of law, and able to lead life in compliance with the laws.
The lower court and the High Court have started the application of the act. The HC recently delivered a landmark judgment in a drug case. A convict sentenced to five years in jail will look after his old mother and his children. He will be under watch of a probation officer. If the convicted person behaves satisfactorily, he will be acquitted of the rest of the punishment.
Earlier in Magura, nine people convicted in drug case have been fulfilling the condition of reading books, watching movies and planting trees. A person, who attacked his aunt, was acquitted for fulfilling the conditions of probation. The six months' sentence of a visa fraud was postponed on 12 conditions in Chakaria of Cox's Bazar in August. The court set conditions of reading books, planting 40 trees and not to take drugs. The same court postponed the punishment of three accused in drug case in last October setting conditions that they would launch an anti-drug campaign and would buy educational materials for schoolchildren till April next.
It is a positive sign that the use of the probation act has started in the country and this is increasing. However, the main success of probation system will depend on the concerted efforts of the judiciary and the executive authorities. Generally local social welfare officers are being appointed as probation officers. Under a policy, meritorious and competent persons have to be recruited as probation officers to reap good results from this system.
There is no doubt that it is necessary to bring a change in our overall outlook regarding committing crimes and awarding rigorous punishment. We welcome the efforts to use the probation act instead of awarding stringent punishment and overcrowding jails with offenders. The success will not come if the matter fully depends on the court orders. The probation officers may play the key role. The emphasis has to be given on counselling the convicts. The social welfare officer of Chakaria on Monday informed us that he is not aware as to what extent the three drug case convicts have followed the court order and made progress. There are three months to submit reports to the court. The convicts did not apprise him of the matter. In fact the matter should not be so technical. The probation officer must maintain contact with the convicts with a touch of humanity and sympathy.
The practice of probation is extensively used in the criminal justice system of a developed democracy. Issues like working for communities without wages, completing education and training courses and being released from jail on parole are included in the probation act.
In the Indian sub-continent, India introduced the act in 1958. Two years later Pakistan followed it. After the independence of Bangladesh, the government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman initiated a move to make the law effective. The law was updated in 1973. But unfortunately the law was not properly applied during the ruling of any governments. Now that the use of the law has started, we will expect its institutionalisation.