Locations: Mumbai, Thane, Latur and Solapur in Maharashtra State & Bharuch and Narmada in Gujarat State

Sponsor: The Tata Trusts, The Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, Tata Motors, HT Parekh Foundation, Shri Balaji Foundation, Individuals and Corporates

Prayas Team

Prayas – A field action project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences

 Social Work in Criminal Justice

 About Prayas

Prayas is a pioneering social work demonstration project of the Centre for Criminology and Justice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, established as a Field Action Project in 1990. Placement of social work students doing their M.A. in Social Work from the Department of Criminology and Correctional Administration (now the Centre for Criminology and Justice) at TISS in prisons, police stations, and courts from 1985 onwards by Dr Sanober Sahni, a faculty in the Department and now Project Advisor, Prayas, led to conceiving the idea of starting a full-time project focusing on social work intervention in the Criminal Justice System. Her partner in this venture was Prof. Vijay Raghavan, who had graduated from TISS in 1989, and the work of Prayas was initiated in Mumbai Central Prison in 1990. With the evolution of newer programmes, the leadership in Prayas has been consciously developed to foster participative decision-making processes, group accountability mechanisms and has led to a second rung of leadership holding key positions, including the Joint Project Director, Dr. Sharon Menezes.

Prayas’s focus is on service delivery, networking, training, research and documentation, and policy change with respect to the custodial/institutional rights and rehabilitation of socio-economically vulnerable individuals and groups who come into direct contact with the Indian Criminal Justice System (CJS). To this end, permission to visit criminal justice or custodial institutions and interact with persons detained or confined in police stations, prisons and government residential institutions in Maharashtra and Gujarat has been obtained from the Departments of Prisons and Women and Child Development.


Assert and include into the broader welfare agenda, the rights of persons and groups affected by the criminal justice system towards their enhanced access to information, education, training, health, opportunities for livelihood and leading life in a safe and healthy environment; thereby channelizing significant human resource to contribute to a developing economy.


To enhance knowledge and influence policy and process of criminal justice and allied systems in India, with specific reference to custodialised and institutionalized individuals and groups who are socio-economically vulnerable, are excluded from mainstream public facilities and welfare, and those who are at greater risk of being criminalised, or exposed to trafficking for sexual exploitation.  


Persons are referred to penal/protective institutions as a consequence of detention/arrest for alleged commission or after conviction of an offence, unstable shelter and/or support systems, neglect, destitution, mental disturbance, or vulnerability to mental/physical/ sexual danger and exploitation. The status could be of an (alleged) offender, or one in distress requiring support.


·       To demonstrate the need for social work intervention in the criminal justice system such as police stations, prisons, courts and institutions for women.

·       To work towards rehabilitation of persons coming out of, or vulnerable to crime, prostitution, or destitution.

·       To improve access to legal rights of persons processed by the criminal justice system and to promote the use of correctional laws to aid rehabilitation of vulnerable groups.

·       To identify issues relevant to rehabilitation and attempt to address them at policy level.

·       To increase awareness in government and society about issues related to rehabilitation of persons affected by crime, commercial sexual exploitation or destitution.

·       To generate knowledge in the field of social work, criminology and corrections through the analysis of field experience.

Geographical Coverage:  Mumbai, Thane, Latur and Solapur in Maharashtra State and Bharuch and Narmada district in Gujarat State.

·        Prisons

·        Government Protective and Shelter homes for women

·        Observation Home for Children, Mumbai

·        Courts and Legal aid systems

Who Does Prayas Reach Out To?

·       Women and youth under trial prisoners and those being processed by the criminal justice system, and their families (including children of women prisoners left outside, while the mothers are inside).

·       Women and girls rescued by the police from prostitution.

·       Destitute women and girls, especially those vulnerable to crime and/or commercial sexual exploitation.

·       Juvenile in Conflict with Law at the Observation Home

·       Women or youth referred by personnel within the criminal justice system, voluntary organisations, ex-beneficiaries of Prayas, or the general public.

Why does Prayas work with these groups?

·       Persons drifting into exploitative situations have done so as a result of their past experiences and social circumstances.

·       They have adopted alternative supportive structures and behaviors to counter life situations.

·       Having been subjected to a series of exploitative situations, they may get drawn to behaviors that are destructive to self or others.

·       Separation from the family and other cultural units has resulted in exclusion from mainstream society.

·       They need support to prevent their further exclusion from society. 

·       Every person rehabilitated adds to a contributing member in the legal economy.

The Approach
To facilitate a process where a person shifts (away) from an environment conducive to crime or commercial sexual exploitation to one that offers stability and safety in following areas:

a)     Shelter

b)    Income in the legal sector

c)     Connections in mainstream society

This is expected to reduce the chances of a person resorting to or being subjected to exploitative behaviour.

Nature of Work

Prayas attempts to facilitate legal and rehabilitation justice within the criminal justice system, and helps people processed by the system to reconstruct their lives – in a way that distances them from exploitation, crime and other vulnerabilities such as addictions, homelessness, and destitution. Thus, focus of Prayas’s services is on provision of legal guidance and aid, legal awareness, individual and family counseling, family support, emergency assistance, medical relief, sponsorship of education of children, vocational training, information about government schemes and services, guidance and helps to obtain citizenship documents, and networking with civil society organisations to strengthen the social re-entry of criminal justice clients. To secure the social re-integration of its clients, Prayas initiated a placement programme in 2003 which is modelled on an apprenticeship programme in the NGO sector. Additionally, it offers emergency support, temporary and stable shelter, vocational training and education, and support through mentoring and monitoring processes to its constituencies, upon their release from custodial institutions.

Issues in relation with socio-legal services and rehabilitation of custodialised and institutionalised populations are represented in various fora, towards facilitating systemic change.  Research studies and field explorations are undertaken for the development of knowledge in the field of social work in criminal justice and processes in rehabilitation, and for advocating systemic change. Research has covered subjects of legal aid, implementation of correctional laws, children separated from imprisoned mothers, rescue and rehabilitation of women engaged in prostitution, socio-economic needs of women working in dance bars, and women discharged from institutions.

What Does Prayas Do?

1. Reaching out Vulnerable Groups at the Pickup Points

Social workers and training instructors visit different settings includingprisons, police stations and government run institutions for women and children.  Services such as counseling, information and awareness programmes, educative sessions, vocational training, family support and legal aid are focused upon. This is done with the objective of establishing rapport and to provide information about rehabilitative services. 

In order to counter problematic individual and environmental situations, a programme has been designed to replace illegal/inappropriate acquaintances, behaviors and support systems with those that are socially acceptable.  A team comprising of social workers, vocational training instructors, and counsellors based in Mumbai and Bharuch operate from Development Centers for male (youth) and women.

 2. Work with Children of Prisoners

Prayas works towards protecting and securing basic and developmental needs of children of women being processed by the CJS.  This includes children in the following circumstances:

a) Children of women prisoners residing with their mothers or those left outside, while the mothers are in prison.

b) Children residing in institutions with their mothers (Govt. Protective Home for women rescued from prostitution) or those left outside while the mothers are in custody.

c) Children who reside with their mothers in the community, following their discharge from prisons / institutions. 

 3. Service Delivery for Rehabilitation

The Rehabilitation plan is implemented on a phase-by-phase basis, as below: 

a.     Emergency support including medical aid, house repair and rent, legal aid, child support, travel to hometown, etc is provided.

b.     Shelter facilities in institutions, hostels, and group homes are arranged for persons who cannot live with their families, due to past behaviour, family circumstances and social stigma. 

c.     Family support and counselling services are provided to ensure support and enable the family deal with difficult circumstances while also supporting the person who has been/is being processed by the criminal justice system.

d.     Education, vocational training and job creation are explored, with special focus on the welfare sector. Accordingly, trainees are placed in the voluntary sector which lends itself for providing a protected, supervised and socially conducive environment for development of social and technical skills necessary for economic and social upgradation. A stipend is provided to trainees during the placement period (ranging from three months to two years)..

e.     Legal documents are obtained in order to help a person exert rights as a citizen.  He/she is also encouraged to gain access to public systems like nationalised banks, health system and welfare schemes. 

f.      Prayas tries to connect the client group to the various Government Schemes available for the welfare and development of the citizens

 4. Research and Documentation

Research studies and field explorations are undertaken for development of knowledge in the field of social work in criminal justice, to gain understanding of the processes in rehabilitation, and for advocating systemic change. Field experiences and proceedings of workshops/seminars/conferences are documented which are used for advocacy work.

 5. Intervention towards Policy change:

Some of the issues addressed in the past and present include:

a) Rehabilitation needs of women in institutions

b) Draft rules of institutions for women

c) Unique Identity Card for women in distress

d)  Health insurance for persons in vulnerable situations

e)  BPL surveys inside institutions

f)  ICDS benefit for children in custody

g)  Access to welfare schemes for custodialised/institutionalized populations

h) Government run vocational training programmes for prison inmates

 6. Training of System Officers &other stake holders in the field

Prayas organizes training programmes for CJS officials and officers of other concerned Government Departments to sensitise them about rehabilitation issues of prisoners & released prisoners. It also reaches out to them with the objective of creating awareness amongst them on importance of extending benefits of Government welfare schemes for rehabilitation of prisoners and released prisoners. It offers training support to other stake holders in the field(social workers of NGOs, Students & faculty of colleges of Social Work) who wants to intervene in the field of social work in Criminal Justice.

7. Extending Library facilities to Prisons

Prayas has been working towards activating the libraries within prisons. And it has been able to get the Directorate of State Libraries to extend the facilities of the district libraries in the state to extend themselves to prisons near their jurisdiction.

8. Intervention with DLSA/SLSA

Prayas has been working with the State and District Legal Services Authorities in Maharahstra and Gujarat to strengthen legal aid services for poor and needy under trial prisoners and help them access legal aid and bail. Prayas has been given official permission by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court to work with the DLSAs in Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Latur districts towards this end in December 2018.

9. Income  Generation for sustaining rehabilitation programme

Sustaining the above mentioned programme remains a challenge.  Factors accounting for this include: lack of visibility of institutional and custodialised populations, coupled with limitations like lack of documents to assert citizenship rights to health and public distributions systems as well as welfare schemes.  Prayas has been trying to develop its own income generation component in order to meet programme expenses.

An income generation unit located in Worli undertakes orders of cloth bound stationary and participates in exhibitions and sales.  In order to develop the capacities of this unit, additional manpower is essential.  

How Can You Help?

·       Sponsor stipend and travel for one person (Rs. 3500/- per month*for a period extending to 12 months) 

·       Support education and/or vocational training activities of beneficiaries (uptoRs. 5000/-* per person, including fees and material expense)

·       Provide one time emergency support to families (Rs. 2000/- per family)

·       Sponsoreducation and nutrition for children  (Rs. 500/- per child per month)

·       Provide Income Generation Kit or seed money (Upto Rs. 10,000 for one beneficiary)

·       Help support administrative expenses

·       Contribute towards staff salaries

·       Place an order for cloth bound stationary (such as jute bags, files, folders) at the Prayas Income Generation Centre.

Contributions can be made by cheque/cash/kind. Cheques may be drawn in favour of TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES. Donations are 50% exempt under sec. 80G (2) (a) (iiif) and 100% exempt under 35 (i) (iii) of the Income Tax Act. 

Prayas Contact Centers Addresses


Prayas – A field action project of TISS

Youth Development Centre

Ground Floor, Building No. 90,

Sudarshan Co-operative Housing Society,

Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar,

New MHADA Colony,

Mankhurd West, Mumbai 400 043

Email: prayas@tiss.edu, prayas.rnd@gmail.com,  prayas_1990@rediffmail.com

Administrative Office

9/1 B.D.D. Chawls

Worli, Mumbai 400 018

Tel:  022-25525167

Email: prayas@tiss.edu, prayas.rnd@gmail.com,  prayas_1990@rediffmail.com



Stree Niketan Building

Opp. Motilal Vin Baugh, Soneri Mahel

Bharuch, Gujarat - 392 001

Tel:    02642222618

Email: bharuch_prayas@yahoo.co.in


Prayas Products:

  • Brochure updated as on 8th December, 2014