Coronavirus in Maharashtra: Over 18,000 inmates to be released to ensure social distancing

Narsi BenwalUpdated: Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 07:13 AM IST
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Arthur Road Jail |

If any prisoner tests positive for Covid-19, then it is the responsibility of the civic authorities and the collector to deal with the issue, the prisoner authorities told the Bombay High Court on Monday. The authorities have further informed that they are in process to release 2/3rd of the total jail population, to ensure social distancing.

The Inspector General of Prisons - Sunil Ramanand on Monday filed an affidavit before a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Sambhaji Shinde. The affidavit has been filed in response to a petition filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) highlighting the sorry state of affairs in the prisons across Maharashtra. The petition filed through senior counsel Mihir Desai also urged the bench to issue directions to ensure the fundamental right to life of inmates is protected.

Pursuant to earlier orders, the jail authorities filed an affidavit stating that over 14,121 bail applications of under-trials have been filed in various courts. This, the authorities said was done in order to decongest jails, as ordered by the High Power Committee, which had recommended releasing 50 per cent of the total 34,000 prisoners.

According to the jail authorities, to ensure social distancing in the prisons, they will have to cut down the total population by 2/3rd, which means from 34,000 inmates, they will have to release nearly 18,000 prisoners.

"The total capacity of prisons in the state is 24,000 and to ensure social distancing, each inmate would have to be given 5 feet width (barrack space) and thus we will have release 2/3rd of the population (sanctioned), which is 16,000. But as on date, the population is 34,000 and thus 18,000 prisoners will have to be released," the affidavit stated.

The affidavit further said that as on date over 2,000 prisoners have been released on emergency parole or furlough. "Thus, jail superintendents have been asked to file bail applications for 14,121 prisoners," the affidavit added.

In his affidavit, IGP Ramanand has further said that most of the eight overcrowded jails have been totally locked down. "In order to curb the contagion of COVID-19, the greatly overcrowded prisons such as Yerwada, Mumbai, Thane, Byculla, Kalyan, Nashik Road, Aurangabad and Nagpur prisons have been locked down totally. There is no ingress or egress of any staff members and prisoners also," IGP Ramanand has said.

"Only vehicles necessary for collection of garbage, supply of milk, vegetables, ration and canteen articles are allowed to enter the prison," the affidavit added.

As per the affidavit, the prison authorities across the state have been ordered to maintain hygiene and take all precautionary measures in the jails.

"Relatives meeting inmates have been stopped as on date and inmates are allowed to either speak on phone or contact through video conferencing. No new prisoner is admitted in the prison," the affidavit reads.

Further giving the details of number of inmates tested positive and died due to Covid-19, the affidavit states, "It is hereby submitted that if any inmate of a prison is found Covid positive, it is the responsibility of the Municipal Commissioner/Collector to take over and issue instructions to the health authorities and the Superintendent of Prisons."

Pointers

In Mumbai Central Prison (Arthur Road) 158 prisoners tested positive and 26 jail staff infected by virus.

In Byculla Women's Prison, one inmate and a staff tested positive.

In Yerwada, Taloja and Dhule prisons, one prisoner each, died of Covid-19. Three More tested positive in Dhule.

In Satara, 10 prisoners tested positive.

Data

Prisoners above 50 years of age across State

2764 men, 310 women - 3074 (total)

Prisoners with serious illness

1842 men, 159 women - 2001 (total)

Differently Abled Prisoners

597 men, 117 women - 714 (total)

Pregnant inmates

08 women

Women prisoners with children

75

Children living with Mothers in prison

68 boys and 36 girls - 104 (total)

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