Authorities in Maharashtra have released over 7,200 prisoners so far to check overcrowding in jails amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said on Sunday. Around 10000 more will be released shortly, they said. In a bid to decongest state jails due to coronavirus outbreak, the state prisons department has so far released over 7,200 prisoners across the state on either temporary bail or parole, an official said.
Following the Supreme Court directives to states and Union territories to set up a panel to consider the release of prisoners on parole to avoid overcrowding in jails to check the spread of coronavirus, the state government had said that around 11,000 prisoners in Maharashtra, whose sentence period is less than seven years, would be released temporarily.
“The pre-lockdown population in the 60 prisons across the state was over 35000 and so far we have released over 7200inmates temporarily to decongest the jails,” an official from the prisons department told PTI. In all, around 17000 jail inmates would be released on temporary bail or parole, he said.
A high-powered committee appointed by the state government recently decided to release 50 per cent prisoners from various jails across the states and this figure is around 17000, he said. The committees decision came after over 100 inmates and staff of central Mumbais Arthur Road Jail tested positive for COVID-19. The pre-lockdown population of Arthur Road Jail was 2300, of which around 700 prisoners were released, he said. There are 1572 inmates in the jail now, he added.
Meanwhile, the Goa Central Jail has granted parole to 44 prisoners, including four women, since the lockdown came into force in the coastal state, an official said on Sunday. This was done following the government orders to decongest jails in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, a prison department official said.
“So far, 44 prisoners – 40 men and four women – have been granted parole by the prison department,” he said. Before the move to grant them parole was implemented, the central jail, located at Colvale in North Goa district, had total 486 prisoners.
These included 93 men and four women serving short or long-term sentences after conviction for various offences, and 364 men and 25 women undertrials, the official said. The parole will run coterminous to the lockdown period, which means the prisoners granted temporary release will stay out of jail till the lockdown continues, he added.
The Supreme Court in March directed all states and Union Territories to constitute high-level committees to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and undertrials for offences entailing up to seven-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. The top court had said overcrowding of prisons is a matter of serious concern, particularly in the present context of COVID-19.