New Delhi, May 19
A high-powered committee headed by a Delhi High Court judge has been informed by DG (Prisons) that 15 inmates and a staff found COVID-19 positive in Rohini jail are quarantined and undergoing treatment, while the process of tracing other prisoners who came in contact with them is still underway.
The Director General (Prisons) told the committee headed by Justice Hima Kohli that a Special Task Force (STF) has been formed for ‘contact tracing’ of suspected cases in all the jails here, including Rohini jail, and if necessary coronavirus test will be done on other inmates who had come in contact with the COIVD-19 positive prisoners.
It has been reported by DG (Prisons) that all the 15 inmates as well as the staff are asymptomatic, the committee recorded in its minutes of meeting held on Monday evenin
A total of 16 inmates and one jail staff tested COVID-19 positive last week. The first positive case was reported after an inmate had undergone a surgery in DDU Hospital on May 11. After being found positive, he was shifted to LNJP Hospital, dedicated for COVID-19 treatment, where he is recuperating.
The committee, set up on Supreme Court’s order to look into decongesting prisons and prevent spread of COVID-19 there, decided that new entrants in jail should be kept in isolation wards to prevent their intermingling with other inmates.
It said precautions be taken by jail staff, medical staff, maintenance staff and others entering the premises for delivery of essentials so that they do not come in direct contact with the prisoners.
“Feeling concerned” about the issue, the committee chairperson asked the DG (Prisons) regarding availability of individual cells in any prison which can be converted into isolation cells for keeping the new entrants at least for an initial period of 14 days to prevent them from coming in contact with other inmates.
Minutes of the meeting recorded that the DG (Prisons) informed that jail no.15 of Mandoli prison has an overall capacity of 280 prisoners and it has 248 individual cells with attached toilets and currently it houses 178 inmates, who are ‘high risk prisoners’.
It has been decided by the committee to shift the 160 of these 178 high risk prisoners to different jails in Tihar which also has high risk wards to accommodate them. The other 18 who are working as ‘sahayak’ will remain in Mandoli jail.
The committee was satisfied with the steps being taken by jail authorities to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prison premises.
It was informed that till Monday, a total of 3,678 prisoners, including undertrials and convicts, have been released on interim bail, parole or remission of sentence as part of the programme to de-congest jails here to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The committee also made it clear that no prisoner in whatsoever category/ class he falls and whatever nature of offence he is facing trial, can seek or claim to be released from prison as a matter of right.
It said the Supreme Court has clarified on April 13 that it has not directed the states or Union Territories to compulsorily release the prisoners from their respective prisons. —PTI
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