As many as 29 temporary jails have been earmarked across Maharashtra till now, of which 21 have already become operational and are currently housing over 1,100 inmates as on Friday. Almost all of these premises are of either schools or hostels which are unoccupied owing to the nationwide lockdown.
On May 15, the Maharashtra Home Department had issued a notification giving powers to district collectors in the state to take provisional possession of government or privately owned buildings, and designate them as temporary prisons that can be used for isolating a section of prisoners to avert the spread of coronavirus.
Prior to that, the proposal of giving such powers to district collectors was under consideration of the state government. Before the notification was issued to that effect, some district collectors had already ordered taking possessions of the buildings outside the premises of existing prisons and earmarking them as temporary jails.
Till Friday, 29 premises from 23 districts in the state had been earmarked as temporary prisons. Additional Director General of Police (Prisons and Correctional Services) Sunil Ramanand said more such temporary prisons will be designated in coming days.
While Pune has three temporary prisons designated till now, Aurangabad, Nashik, Raigad and Washim districts have two each. One each has been set up in Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Solapur, Jalna, Parbhani, Beed, Nanded, Osmanabad, Dhule, Thane, Sindhudurg, Nagpur, Amravati, Buldana, Akola, Yavatmal and Bhandara. Eight of these were yet to become operational.
The notification to empower district collectors had followed the detection of over 180 positive cases among inmates and staff members of Mumbai Central Jail — better known as Arthur Road Jail — and another case in Byculla Jail. An 82-year-old inmate from Yerawada Prison in Pune, who was isolated around mid-April following respiratory problems and had passed away on May 9, later turned out to be Covid-19 positive. The state government has already announced that it is going to temporarily release over 17,000 inmates – half the pre-lockdown population of prisons in Maharashtra. Till now, of the targeted 17,000, over 8,500 inmates have been released, including undertrials who are released on bail and convicts who are released on parole.
On May 24, an inmate currently lodged in the temporary prison on the premises of a government hostel in Yerawada attempted to escape, but was caught by the jail staff. Officials maintained that adequate security measures have been put in place at the temporary prisons, which are not as fortified as regular prisons.
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