On Monday, the Madhya Pradesh government issued a statement saying that it was “releasing about 5,000 convicts on emergency parole of 60 days. Another 3,000 undertrials will be released on interim bail of 45 days, in the next two days".
The move comes close on the heels of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which have also been releasing prisoners on bail, to prevent overcrowding in its facilities.
In Delhi’s Tihar Jail, the country’s largest with 17,500 inmates, authorities plan to release 3,000, of whom 400 have already been released. Prison authorities said they have been careful to release inmates who belong to the same city.
Prisons have also stopped interactions between inmates and outsiders, besides stepping up medical and isolation facilities within the premises.
“Isolation wards are earmarked in each jail for any inmate showing flu-like symptoms. There is proper medical screening of new inmates and they are being kept in separate barracks for at least three days," said director general of Tihar Jail Sandeep Goel.
“Family meetings have been stopped and they can talk over the phone. By the orders of Delhi High Court, all court productions of inmates have been stopped. We have also carried out sensitization of jail staff, as well as inmates about general hygiene and precautions regarding coronavirus and masks, hand sanitizers and handwash are being provided to staff and inmates where required," Goel added.
On Saturday, the UP government released 11,000 prisoners across 71 jails, as Maharshtra home minister Anil Deshmukh directed the state to release another 11,000 prisoners serving jail terms of up to seven years. Other states, too, are now stepping up to decongest prison facilities to avoid a community outbreak of the virus.
“There has been a meeting chaired by the Chief Justice as well as the DG of prisons. And there are clear cut directions and implementation is on the way because there are some procedures to be followed. Some will go on release on bail. Undertrials will go on automatic bail and convicts will go on parole," said Praveen Sood, DG and IGP, Karnataka.
Sharan Poovanna in Bengaluru contributed to this story.