Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government has released over 7,200 under-trial prisoners and convicts on bail and parole from prisons to decongest the jails in view of the coronavirus pandemic, a senior official said on Sunday.
At least 1,160 jail inmates have also been relocated to less congested prisons as part of precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, the official said.
"As many as 7,255 prisoners, including 389 convicts, have been released as a temporary measure to decongest the jails by following a thorough judicial process since the third week of March," he said.
While the convicts have been released through parole, the 6,866 undertrial prisoners were set free through bail allowed by the courts.
Mentioning that the move to decongest the jails by releasing some of the inmates started over 40 days ago, the official said that the district undertrial review committee, led by judges, took the decision to grant bail after going through the records of the inmates.
Those involved in cases inviting a maximum punishment of 10 years were given priority, he said.
Similarly the ones who have already served at least five years sentence were considered for parole.
The Supreme Court had in March issued a directive to the states to constitute high-level committees to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and under-trials for offences entailing up to a 7-year jail term to decongest jails in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Steps have also been taken to place new prisoners under quarantine for a stipulated period before allowing them to share jail cells with other inmates, a home department official said.
The prison directorate has also sanctioned fund for the purchase of infrared thermometers to conduct thermal screening of jail employees as well as prisoners, he said.
All NGO activities in the jails have been suspended for the time being, while steps have been taken for arranging 'e-mulakats' (e-meetings) between the inmates and their family members, he said.
Jail officials and employees, including cooks, have been asked to maintain hygiene.
The state has 85 jails with a capacity to accommodate over 19,000 inmates. At present, there are around 16,000 inmates.