April 25, 2021 3:11:12 am
EVEN AS the Bombay High Court has suggested shifting undertrial prisoners from crowded jails to other jails for an “equitable distribution” in light of an alarming rise in Covid-19 case, data from the prison department shows that nearly all prisons in the state are filled to capacity or are overcrowded.
Apart from open prisons, where convicts who have finished a substantial term of their sentence are lodged, only three jails in the state — Nanded, Jalna and Nandurbar — have fewer inmates than the official capacity of the facility. There are currently 230 active cases among inmates and 110 among staffers across state jails.
Earlier this week, the High Court while hearing a suo motu PIL based on news reports highlighting an increase in Covid-19 cases in the jails, directed magistrate courts to decide on applications made by the state prison authorities to shift undertrial prisoners from crowded jails.
According to the prison department, certain prisons, including Yerwada Central Prison in Pune, Mumbai Central prison, Kalyan and Thane jails, have inmates double or triple their official capacity. “Most prisons in the state except open jails where undertrials cannot be lodged are filled to capacity. Shifting prisoners in the few remaining prisons will not reduce the congestion unless inmates are considered for temporary bail as was suggested by the high-powered committee last year,” said an official.
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Open prisons are minimum security prisons where convicts selected for a good conduct over many years are allowed to be lodged. Officials said that these are not suited for undertrials due to the risk of escaping.
In the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, all jails, including Mumbai Central, Thane, Taloja, Kalyan, Byculla and Byculla women’s jail, are overcrowded. Of the 230 active cases, 119 are from these jails with the maximum cases in Byculla women’s jail at 39. The current prison population in the state is 34,896 as against their capacity of 23,217.
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