NEW DELHI: Over 2,800 prisoners have been released on interim bail or emergency parole from three Delhi jails, including Tihar, to decongest the prisons during the second wave of the coronavirus infection, officials said on Thursday.
These include inmates who were released last year and then surrendered with no adverse report and also new prisoners who were eligible for such interim bail or emergency parole in view of the pandemic under the criteria laid down by a high-powered committee in its meetings on May 4 and 11.
On March 16, 2020, the Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognisance of overcrowding in prisons across the country and had said it is difficult for jail inmates to maintain social distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
It had directed all states and union territories to constitute high-level committees to consider giving parole or interim bail to prisoners and undertrials for offences entailing up to a seven-year jail term.
Last year, around 5,500 undertrial prisoners and 1,184 convicts were released on interim bail and emergency parole from the three Delhi jails — Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli — during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Of them, 104 convicts and around 2,450 undertrials have not returned, officials said.
Tihar, with a capacity of over 10,000 inmates, is one of the largest prison complexes in South Asia.
This year, till May 28, a total of 1,990 undertrial prisoners have been released on interim bail.
Till May 31, while 745 convicts have been granted emergency parole, the officials said.
According to data provided by officials about the status of vaccination among the prison populace in Delhi, around 500 inmates of Tihar jail below the age of 45 years have been inoculated till now.
The Delhi Prisons Department started a vaccination drive for inmates in the 45-plus age category on March 18, while inoculation of inmates in the 18-44 age group began on May 18.
Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel said, “Currently, there are around 1,600 inmates (in the three prisons of Delhi) above 45 years of age and most of them have been vaccinated.
Around 500 inmates below the age of 45 years in Tihar Jail have received the jabs.
” Since March this year, 381 cases of coronavirus infection have been reported among the prisoners of which 354 have recovered and there are 19 active cases, according to data provided by the prisons department.
Eight inmates have succumbed to the disease during this time.
Among the prison staff members, 221 staffers have been infected since March and of them, 214 have recuperated while seven are still undergoing treatment.
Officials said that in view of the second wave of COVID-19 infections in the national capital, several measures have been taken to contain the spread of the infection in the prisons.
Inmates are no longer allowed to gather inside the library or for music and sports activities.
The jails have been divided into several wards and the movement of inmates is restricted, the officials.
“We have sensitised the inmates about the virus and they have been told to follow social distancing norms,” an official said.
The first case of COVID-19 infection among the prison inmates was reported in Rohini Jail on May 13, 2020.
The national capital’s cumulative COVID-19 infection tally stands at 14,27,926 cases while the death toll stands at 24,447.