Even as the state prison department has begun releasing undertrial prisoners on bail to decongest prisons, many of them are finding it difficult to reach home due to the nationwide lockdown.
A woman in her 20s, who was released by the Byculla prison in Mumbai on April 1, could not reach her family in Palghar district. A jailor of the prison gave her shelter to her for a day in her house, hoping to make arrangements the next day at a state shelter home for women. But with entry to such homes currently restricted, another inmate, who was also being released, ultimately had to step in to take the woman home with her.
“The woman told us that she stays at a railway station in Palghar district with her family, including her children. As she could not reach there, a jailor kept her in her house for a day. Subsequently, we tried to take her to a shelter home, but that was also seeming difficult. Another inmate, also in her 20s, offered to take her home in Govandi,” said Meenal Kolatkar, a social worker with Prayas, a field action project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which works with prisoners. Another social worker Saturday visited the woman to ensure her wellbeing.
So far, 2,910 undertrial prisoners, who face up to seven years imprisonment, have been released on bail across 37 prisons Maharashtra with the maximum, 429, released from Arthur Road jail, followed by 284 from Thane and 279 from Taloja in the city after an order was issued by the Supreme Court last month.
The prison department has asked jail authorities across the state to ensure that appropriate arrangements should be made for the prisoners who were being released on temporary bail. “We have been calling family members of the prisoners and giving e-passes to them and the persons getting released to ensure they are dropped home. Some are also being dropped home with help from the police,” said Harshad Ahirrao, Thane jail superintendent.
Other prison officials, however, said that due to less manpower, it has not been easy to ensure each prisoner can be dropped home. Many undertrial prisoners have walked home from the jails to their homes in far off suburbs of the city with no means of transport available.
In Latur, the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) has sought assistance from Prayas to drop the prisoners home, which is being done since last month. “We are in touch with officials of other districts, including Mumbai, and have made them an offer in case they require any assistance in making arrangements for prisoners being released,” said Vijay Raghavan, projector director, TISS.
Prayas has also reached out through cash transfers and ration distribution to more than 200 families of prisoners, who are from the informal sector, who have faced a loss of livelihood due to the lockdown.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines