Ramakanta Biswas

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government has released as many as 16,789 prisoners from various jails across the State in a period of over four months in the wake of novel coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 16639 undertrial prisoners (UTPs) and 150 convicts have been released between March 20 and July 28 as part of decongestion measures of jails following the recommendation of a high-power committee.

“As directed by High-Powered Committee, the Undertrial Review Committees of 30 districts having District Judges, District Magistrates, Superintendents of police, Secretary DLSA & Jail superintendents as members had taken conscious decisions on merit for ensuring decongestion of jails,” said a release by the Directorate of Prisons and Correctional Services.

In addition, a total of 1202 prisoners have been shifted from overcrowded jails to less crowded Jails so far.

It is reminded here that the Supreme Court on March 23 had issued a directive asking all state governments to decongest jails to prevent spread of coronavirus.

On March 26, the state government constituted the high-powered committee to decide whether prisoners sentenced for up to seven years and undertrial prisoners whose offences drew a maximum of seven years punishment could be released.

However, the decongestion measures seem to have failed to keep the coronavirus at bay as several jails in the State reported positive cases among staff and convicts.

The first case of COVID-19 from inside a prison in Odisha was reported from Puri jail on May 17. Later, over 20 inmates and two staff tested positive from the Berhampur Circle jail. The virus has reportedly spread to jails across seven districts  in the State.

“The latest count of prisoners who have tested positive for COVID-19 is seven in Puri, five in Rourkela, 54 in Berhampur, two in Umarkote, nine in Choudwar, one in Jajpur and five in Banpur. In Berhampur, around 14 jail staff have also been affected,” Additional IG of prisons, Tushar Mohanty, told The Wire.

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)

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