COVID-19: Overcrowded prisons to free prisoners on bail

COVID-19 National

Prisoners convicted of, or suspected of, offences requiring jail sentences of seven years or less could be eligible for release or conditional bail, directed Supreme Court. 

By Ishika Dangayach 

April 14, 2020 

Following the Supreme Court’s (SC) direction, thousands of inmates  from overcrowded jails across the nation are released on temporary bail or parole. It is an extraordinary measure to deter the outbreak of coronavirus and perhaps to stop any conflicts, as officials are struggling to curb the pandemic in their tracks.

Tihar Prison, Asia’s largest jail which had decided to release some 3000 prisoners have released some of them in two batches till now.

The over populated jails in India are prohibiting the social distancing which is one of the only measures that can be taken to curb the outbreak of coronavirus.

“Coming at a period when social distancing is a way to put a hindrance in the infection chain, these kinds of populated jails are a question of grave concern,” said Dr. Ajay Sharma, a general physician from Jaipur.

He also said, “Jail hygiene services are terrible. Knowing about many nations that are in much harsher circumstances, the prison officials ought to make sure that the inmates are 6-foot apart,”Similarly, Rajasthan has also proposed release of prisoners but the number of releases is yet to be confirmed. 

NRK Reddy, DGP, Central Jail, Jaipur said, “As per the court orders, we have prepared the list of prisoners from jails across the state. We have segregated their names in three separate lists for the prisoner with five years jail, seven years jail and those who are locked up for petty crimes and are not habitual offenders.”

“A meeting with officials of the Home Ministry and judicial officers is to be held soon. After that it will be decided how many detainees are to be released on bail or parole and for how long,” he added. 

There are 110 jails in the state which has more than 20,000 prisoners. More than 14,000 of these prisoners are under trial that means their sentence has not been fully decided. They are mainly detained for stealing, assault, as well as robbery, rape, and murder. However, the maximum number of detainees are in the nine central jails of the state.

On  March 16, 2020, the SC acknowledged “a strong likelihood of COVID-19 being transferred to inmates,” with offenders, prison personnel, prison families and attorneys regularly entering and exiting prisons and ordered states and UTs to send written responses on measures taken to avoid the dissemination of the pandemic among inmates and juveniles.

On March 23, 2020, it indicated that offenders accused of or suspected of crimes requiring jail sentences of seven years or fewer may be eligible for release or conditional bail.

As per news reports, states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, and West Bengal have also released prisoners who were undertrial to avoid the spread of novel coronavirus. 

Image Courtesy- Pixlr


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