Releasing prisoners on bail and parole to decongest jails, compulsory wearing of masks, frequent medical screening and suspension of 'mulaqat' with family -- these are some of the steps being taken by the Delhi prison authorities to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Authorities are extra cautious now after coronavirus infections were reported from the Rohini Jail. There are three jails in Delhi -- Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli. After a 28-year-old inmate of Rohini Jail tested positive for the coronavirus, 15 others who shared a barrack with him and one head warden contracted the infection. The jail authorities said they are conducting medical screening of each inmate more frequently and at a faster pace. All the inmates have been strictly advised not to hide about their health conditions in case they are unwell and should report to doctor immediately, the authorities said. The jail staff and doctors have been educating the inmates about the novel coronavirus and the precautionary measures to be taken to contain its spread, said an official. "Every inmate has been provided with two masks each and they are reused after washing. These masks have been stitched by jail inmates," he added. While coming out of barracks, it is compulsory for inmates to wear masks. The jail authorities also encourage inmates to wear masks while inside the barracks too as a preventive measure, said the DG (Prisons) of Tihar, Sandeep Goel.
The inmates cannot be confined to their barracks all the time. They do come out when needed, and in such times, it is ensured they have limited interaction with members of other barracks, Goel said.
The inmates usually come out of their respective barracks either to avail phone facility, canteen facility or to visit the jail office or dispensary which is within the jail premises, he said.
All these areas are encircled so that inmates wait in queue within the marked circle to avail the facility as and when their turn comes, he said. Only eight to 10 inmates are at a time allowed to come outside their barracks to avail phone facility.
Earlier, they used to interact with inmates of other barracks but now, they are very cautious and have limited interaction and maintain social distancing even while speaking to inmates belonging to their own barrack, officials said.
Usually, a barrack houses 20-25 inmates. A major step that was taken towards maintaining social distance was to decongest the jails.
The jail authorities said when they started the process of decongestion back in March, the population in jails were 175 per cent of the capacity -- the three jails were housing 17,500 inmates against the capacity of 10,000.
But a lot of effort was taken and many inmates were either released on emergency parole or on interim bail.
So far, 3,500 inmates have been released and more will be freed in the coming days to avoid over-crowding.
Another significant effort that was taken was to stop court production of inmates and 'mulaqat' (meeting) with family members to ensure they are not exposed, they added. Phone facility in the jail was made free of cost for the inmates and it is ensured, they get to speak to their family at least once in a week. In case someone falls sick, doctor after checking his health condition decides if the person needs to be kept in medical isolation which is made in each barrack or if he has to be kept in a jail dispensary from where his conditions are monitored regularly, they said.