Chances are, if a juvenile is arrested in Tamil Nadu for petty crimes such as chain snatching, he/she will be set free with a warning than being sent to a correctional home, when compared to other states in India, according to a report.
"There is nothing wrong if a child is let off for a petty offence. But if the crime is heinous, he/she is sent to the correctional home," said Dr. P Manorama, ex-Child Welfare Committee chairperson, according to a Times of India report.
According to experts, the large number of juveniles being let off in the state is perhaps due to their committing petty crimes.
"The present condition of correctional home is so poor that there couldn't possibly be any reformation there. In fact, the homes in Tamil Nadu are like prison which lead to children turning repeated offenders. After release, they become easy prey for hardened criminals or gangs operating kangaroo courts," said a welfare activist A. Narayanan, according to a Times of India report.
In some cases, juveniles convicted of serious crimes often walk out due to the inefficient functioning of the correctional homes. For example: if the parents of a juvenile are rich and affluent, chances are the juvenile will walk free even before the end of his/her term.
Post release, there is a big chance the juvenile will be hooked on to serious crimes.
"The government is not doing enough to engage these children by either ensuring that they return to school or provide them with vocational training to ensure they do not become hardened criminals," said Manorama.
There must be stringent punishment in cases related to violent sexual crimes like the Nirbhaya case, because no amount of counseling can make a juvenile understand the consequences of rape says Emi, a Chennai-based social activist and researcher, who has been assisting police in cracking trafficking cases, according to Times of India.
Last year in the state of Tamil Nadu alone 2,795 juveniles were booked for criminal cases either under the Indian Penal Code or using Special and Local Laws (SLL).
The National Crime Bureau Record (NCBR) statistics states that 22% of the 2,795 were left off, 14% were released on probation, another 14% were sent to correctional homes.
In the period from 2004-2014, the highest number of cases recorded of juveniles in conflict with law were in 2014 at 33, 526 cases and the lowest number of cases were in 2004 at 19229.
There were 300 cases of investigations pending at the end of the year in Tamil Nadu alone, according to NCBR statistics for 2014.