The West Bengal government has
released around 3,000 inmates on bail or parole to decongest correctional homes since the last week March in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, an official said on Sunday.
The department of correctional services has also taken several measures to check coronavirus infection inside the jails of the state.
The official said there are around 60 correctional homes in West Bengal, housing nearly 25,000 inmates and of them, close to 7,000 are convicts while others are undertrials.
"So far, more than 3,000 inmates have been granted bail or parole. Out of whom, around 2,000 are under trial prisoners and the remaining are convicts. We have taken other measures such as ensuring that the inmates use protective gears and maintain social distancing norms in correctional homes," the senior jail official said.
Earlier, the department also disallowed prison visits by family members.
"This decision of not allowing family members to meet the inmates has helped a lot in containing the situation. Initially, the prisoners had protested against this decision, but later they accepted it," Correctional Services Minister Ujjal Biswas said.
The decision had even led to clashes between inmates and guards at a jail in Kolkata in March, where prisoners pelted stones and set prison properties on fire.
The Calcutta High Court on March 24 formed a three- member panel to examine the situation in all correctional homes of West Bengal and prepare a report on the number of inmates who could be granted bail or parole to avoid crowding in jails, in view of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The department then prepared a list of inmates eligible for parole and bail and forwarded it to the court.
Inmates were released following the guideline laid down by the court, the official said.
The high court took up the issue suo motu following a Supreme Court direction, asking all state governments and Union territories to set up high-level committees to determine the class of prisoners who could be released on parole for four to six weeks.
The apex court had said prisoners convicted of or charged with offences having prison terms up to seven years can be given parole to decongest the jails.
According to the website of the West Bengal Correctional Services department, the state has six central correctional homes, 12 district correctional homes, three special correctional homes, two women's correctional homes, one open-air correctional home, and 33 subsidiary correctional homes.
The combined registered capacity of these facilities is 20,802 including 1,637 females.
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