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Prayas is a response, or ‘effort’, as the name suggests, to offer legal and rehabilitation services to persons from resource poor communities, who get processed within the criminal justice system, or those at the margins of crime, victimization, or destitution. A cadre of trained, specialist Social Workers help create spaces that help them reconstruct their lives and distance them in a sustained way, from crime, exploitation, violence and vulnerabilities.

Conceived and initiated in 1990 as a field action project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (Centre for Criminology and Justice, School of Social Work), Prayas has used a comprehensive approach combining legal services, counselling, family support, livelihood and skill development, networking, training, research & documentation, and policy change. It has impacted the lives of over 40,000 people who were criminalized, victimised or on the brink of it. Inside prisons, it has worked with under trial prisoners including children who are imprisoned with their mothers; families of prisoners (particularly, children left outside and the aged); women rescued from destitution or commercial sexual exploitation and housed in government facilities; children in Observation Homes; resource poor persons who need assistance in navigating courts and justice systems.

The Prison Reformation Project in Maharashtra

With the aim to work towards institutionalizing socio-legal services for prisoners in Maharashtra and developing caring gender identities of male youth in conflict with law through social work intervention, Prayas works with both personers inside prisons and other custodial institutions as well as with released prisoners and children in conflict with law.

The idea is to strengthen socio-legal services and demonstrate the need for the intervention of social workers in the rehabilitation of prisoners. The programme also intervenes in the health and mental wellbeing of the inmates to ensure their overall well-being. After release, the work will continue with the clients for their rehabilitation through education, training, livelihood and supporting them and their families in difficult and emergency situations.