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With Covid19 cluster cases being reported across Prisons in India, the Haryana government has now decided to designate one central and three district prisons as special prisons for new male prisoners who will be sent to judicial custody.

The Haryana government has decided to designate one Central Prison and three District Prisons as Special Prisons with immediate effect to keep all the new male prisoners, under judicial custody, in the state till their COVID-19 report comes

Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar

According to 2018 National Crime Records Bureau data, 1,401 prisons were packed with around 4,50,000 people, nearly 60,000 over the sanctioned capacity.

Prisoners are extremely vulnerable and the chances of them contracting the infection is extremely high. Even if one judges Indian prisons based on its official capacity, it does not allow any social distancing. Reports suggest that 50% of the capacity should be reduced to follow social distancing.  

Medical teams from government hospitals are visiting prisons on a daily basis. They have also created temporary jails. Maharashtra has nearly 37 such jails in 27 districts. 

The Bombay high court has laid down detailed guidelines for random tests to be done and those with comorbidity also tested. But, people continue to get infected by COVID-19 in jails.

On March 16, the Supreme Court asked States and Union territories on their plans to avoid COVID-19 among inmates in prisons. At that time, most states showed willingness to certain categories of prisoners on bail in order to decongest prisons.

According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, as of June 30, nearly 805 jail staffers and inmates have tested positive for covid-19 across jails in the country. 

Former JNU student Sharjeel Imam actively involved in Shaheen Bagh protests in the National capital, lodged in Guwahati jail for months in connection with the sedition case, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Sharjeel has been admitted to a local hospital for treatment. Other Anti-CAA activist Akhil Gogoi and his close aides also tested positive for COVID-19 in Guwahati jail. 

Noted Scholar and Telugu poet Varavara Rao tested positive for COVID-19 in Maharashtra’s Taloja jail. He is 70 years old and was arrested in August 2018 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

Rao sought bail, but the National Investigative Agency sought an affidavit opposing the plea, saying he was trying to take undue advantage of the pandemic to get bail.

On 4th of July, Mahender Yadav, a former legislator from Delhi, imprisoned in Delhi’s Mandoli Jail in connection with the 1984 riots case, died of covid-19.Yadav became the second prisoner from the Capital to have succumbed to the virus.

The primary objective of prison authorities must be to reduce overcrowding. But, bail requests of those accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case have consistently been rejected, even when some of those accused are old and have co-morbid conditions.

But, the question remains. How much are the jail authorities doing to prevent the COVID-19 spread among the prisoners?

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