Even as random testing in prisons across Maharashtra showed high caseload among inmates, the state prison department has ramped up testing for early identification and isolation of Covid-19 cases.
As of now, 33 out of 47 prisons in the state have reported positive cases. The total number of reported cases from prisons were 2,155 as of Monday, including 1,772 inmates and 383 staff. Of them, 1,040 inmates and 310 staff members have recovered, while six inmates and three prison staff have died of the infection.
It should be recalled that the first lot of cases was reported from Mumbai Central Prison, better known as Arthur Road jail, in the first week of May. To date, Chandrapur, Akola, Nagpur, Sangli, Kolhapur, Yerawada and Mumbai central prisons have reported more than 100 cases among inmates. These cases are either being reported from the main premises of the prison or from temporary prisons, where new admissions are being lodged.
Temporary prisons have separate Covid care centres, where asymptomatic inmates are being lodged. Those with symptoms are being admitted to designated hospitals along with security arrangements.
So far, 11,260 inmates have reportedly been tested either through swab swamples or rapid antigen test. Of them, close to 3,000 were tested over the past week. The present inmate population of prisons across the state is 26,700. As a percentage of the total population, more than 42 per cent have been tested, while 2,300 prison officers and guards have also undergone tests.
Sunil Ramanand, Additional Director General of Police (Prison and Correctional Services) of Maharashtra, said, “With the availability of increased testing facilities everywhere, we have decided to expand our testing pool in the main premises of prisons as well as temporary prisons. This has helped us in early detection and isolation.”
Asked if more temporary prisons would be set up, Ramanand said, “The buildings designated as temporary jails were not meant to be prisons, thus requiring more security measures and deployment of additional security, which we have to draw from the main premises. The current capacity of temporary prisons is sufficient.”
Around mid-May, the state home department had empowered district collectors to take provisional possession of government or private buildings and designate them as temporary prisons, which could be used for isolating sections of prisoners to avert the spread of the viral infection.
To date, 37 temporary prisons have been designated across the state, most of which are on the campuses of schools, colleges or hostels with multiple separate buildings. These temporary jails house close to 2,800 inmates at present.
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