Although the spread of Covid-19 inside the prisons across Maharashtra has been a cause of great concern, it is heartening to note that at present 219 of the 239 inmates tested positive across the Mumbai jails have so far recovered.
At Arthur Road jail, the first state prison to repost Covid-19 case way back in May 6 that prompted the government to take swift actions, has today flattened the curve. In March, the Superintendent of Police, Arthur road jail, VB Vayachal had given letter to court requesting to release inmates on bail to decongest overcrowding in jail. Arthur road jail has a capacity of 800 inmates and in March the inmate count was a whopping 3700.
Known as Mumbai Central jail, among the 1148 inmates who went through the Covid-19 test, a total of 184 had tested positive. Today, 183 have recovered. Among the 152 staff members, 52 had tested positive and 50 have recovered. There were no deaths reported.
“We treated all the 184 inmates who were tested positive inside the jail. The treatment was carried out by jail doctors along with a team from JJ Hospital. Among the inmates, there were two nursing certified students, who were also counselled and trained to help the doctors,” said a jail officer.
The Taloja jail authorities had carried out test of 1816 inmates and four had tested positive. Among them two deaths were reported. Similarly around 110 staff of Taloja went through the test and 45 of them were detected positive. Barring one, all have recovered. At the Byculla District Prison although all the 83 inmates had tested negative, six of the 94 members of the staff had tested positive. All six have recovered. At the Byculla women’s prison, only two inmates of the 272 inmates and two staff among the 21 staff members had tested positive. All of them have recovered. In JJ hospital prison ward, two among the 19 staff member had tested positive while at the Kalyan District Prison test was carried out on 1039 inmates and 37 had tested positive and 21 have been cured so far. Also, 45 jail staff went through the test and 31 were tested positive and all of them have recovered.
An official from Thane central jail on condition of anonymity said: “We have all the facilities inside jail including doctors. We are creating awareness on regular basis and also distributing masks and sanitizers. In Thane jail, from mid-May to till date we had carried out tests of 1308 inmates and among them 11 were tested positive. All of them have recovered.” He adds that among the 156 staff members, 41 had tested positive and all of them have recovered as well.
To restrict the spread of Covid-19 inside the state prison and to maintain social distancing rules, the Maharashtra government, in early May this year, had announced to give temporary parole to 17,000 inmates out of the 35,000 inmates lodged in various prisons across the state. The ones found eligible for this included trial inmates, convicted for 7 years or above, barring ones who are accused/convicts in UAPA, MCOCA, PMLA and the likes. The state government has so far released a total of 10,647 inmates (till Oct 10) on temporary parole to put a check on the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus inside the crammed up state prisons.
“In many cases the court had rejected the regular bail of the inmates. Later, many of them were granted temporary bail or parole to help ease out overcrowding in jails and maintain social distancing. Every inmate released on temporary bail will be back in the jail once the lockdown is over,” explained advocate Prashant Gurav.
Of course this has led to a frenzy among the inmates to get some respite from the prison life. The prison officials are meticulously explaining them the bail criteria, and if applicable even helping them draft pleas.
Also, in order to calm down the nerves and to ensure that the inmates can communicate with their family members as well as their advocates, the jail authorities set up single-call coin telephones. All over Maharashtra jails 65 such coin box were set up. Also, 64 smart phones were set up across Maharashtra jail for court hearing through video conferencing.
Quarantine centres for new inmates
In June after positive cases started rising in the jails, the authorities took the decision to shift all new inmates to the Covid care centres or quarantine centres. Felons marked for Arthur road jail, Byculla Prison, Thane Central Jail are kept at the Namadar Gopal Krishna Gokhale School, Sector 12 in Kharghar. While the Covid care centre for the inmates going to Kalyan District jail is the Don Bosco School, Kalyan.
Sunil Ramanand, inspector general (prisons), Maharashtra explaining the efforts by the jail authorities during the lockdown period and said, “It was the very efficient management of prisons and temporary prisons, which double as Covid Care Centres that helped in curbing the spread.”
“All new inmates from Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai jails were shifted to the temporary jail or quarantine centre in Kharghar. New inmates would be kept in these centres after a Covid check. Only Covid negative felons are allowed inside. If found positive, they are sent to the hospital for treatment,” said an official from Taloja Central Jail.
Total COVID-19 positive inmates in Mumbai/Navi Mumbai jails: 239
Total INMATES recovered so far Mumbai/Navi Mumbai jails: 2I9
Total DEATHS in Mumbai/Navi Mumbai jails: 2
(According to Maharashtra prison department data, current figures as on October 14 from Mumbai Central Prison, Thane Central Prison, Taloja Central Prison, Byculla District Prison, Mumbai Women Prison at Byculla, J.J.Hospital Prison Ward, Kalyan District Prison)