Tihar may turn police residential complex into temporary prison

New Delhi: Neither is it surprising nor is it new information that Delhi's prisons are overcrowded. Despite, releasing around 4,000 prisoners either on parole or interim bail to decongest the jails in light of the pandemic, the Delhi Prisons Department has now written to the Delhi government asking for one of the police residential complexes in the city to be converted into a temporary jail so that more prisoners can be shifted out.

This comes days after Delhi's jails reported its first COVID-19 death of an inmate, following which 17 out of 29 of his contacts, mostly senior citizens had tested positive for the virus.

Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel confirmed that prison authorities had sought an additional premise so that more prisoners can be shifted out of jails. He said, "It is just an initial proposal," adding that the letter was sent to the government here on Wednesday.

"We wrote the letter yesterday for a police residential complex in Mandoli which is situated near Mandoli Jail. It has 360 flats (in twelve towers). But presently it is being used as a government medical quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients," DG Goel said.

All of Delhi's 16 prisons put together have a total capacity to house 10,026 inmates. Before the outbreak, approximately 17,500 inmates were occupying these jails. And even after temporarily releasing 3,500 prisoners, the current population of jails exceeds the capacity with around 13,500 inmates still at the prisons.

Till June 22, as many 40 prison inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, of which 16 have recovered and one death was reported; whereas 46 prison staff were also affected by the virus, among whom 12 have so far recovered.

Recently, the first COVID-19 death was reported from the prison after a 64-year-old inmate had tested positive after his death. Given that the inmate was a senior citizen, he was being held in a barrack with 29 others, most of whom were around his age or older. After testing all of them, prison authorities found that 17 had tested positive for the virus. The 17 positive inmates were later shifted to a separate barrack in CJ-14 and their health is being closely monitored by the jail doctor.

According to officials, prison authorities are taking several measures to curb the spread of the contagious disease inside their prisons. "Inmates cannot go to other barracks or form any kind of group and if they come out of their barracks, they must wear masks and maintain social distancing," one official said.

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