Chennai

After 10 months, prisoners get to meet family, friends again

Safety first: Special enclosures were erected so that visitors and prisoners could maintain distance between them. Photo: Special Arrangement  

After 10 months, Central prisons in the State have resumed the provision of “interview time” for prisoners to meet their family and friends on the prison premises, with adequate precautions in place.

Immediately after the outbreak of COVID-19 last March, the Prisons and Correctional Services Department had suspended interview time with family members for prisoners. Over 40,000 prisoners were released on bail, on orders of the courts, to reduce crowding, and sub jails near Central prisons were converted into quarantine centres. Prisoners were permitted to make video calls through smartphones supplied to the prisons.

Sunil Kumar Singh, Director General of Police (DGP), Prisons and Correctional Services, told The Hindu, “After taking into consideration all factors, including the gradual and satisfactory decline in COVID-19 infections and the relaxed restrictions in the State, we have decided to resume interviews with relatives and friends for prisoners, with effect from Thursday, subject to certain precautionary measures. We have also issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) to all Superintendents of Prisons for conducting the interviews.”

“Normally, interviews are not permitted to be held on government holidays, but an exception was made for Pongal, and interviews were allowed on the day to bring smiles among prisoners, during this difficult time. A total of 481 prisoners met their relatives in nine Central prisons and five special prisons for women on the first day,” he said.

Special enclosures were erected so that visitors and prisoners could maintain 1 to 2 m of distance. Prisoners stood inside enclosures that were covered with mesh wire, while visitors stood inside another. A gap on 1 m was maintained between them.

Interviews are permitted after advance bookings, only through the e-prison visitors’ management system or the telephone. The existing landline numbers (incoming facility only) are used for booking interviews. Registrations can be done seven days prior to the date of interview, and at least a day (24 hours) before the interview. Inmates are allowed to have an interview with a family member once a month. Interview timings are between 9.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m., except on Saturdays, Sundays and gazetted holidays. The duration of interviews is only 15 minutes.

SOP issued

According to the SOP, visitors should arrive at least 30 minutes before the time of interview for verification. Thermal screening and sanitisation of visitors should be done at the main entrance and the visitors’ hall entrance. Visitors without masks will not be permitted inside the prison complex. Physical distancing norms should be strictly enforced. Staff on duty at the visitors’ registration hall and the interview room should wear masks, face shields and gloves, and adhere to physical distancing norms. Sanitisation of the interview room, on both sides, should be done before and after the interviews, the SOP read.

“As on today, no imprisoned convict is infected, and there are only four remand prisoners affected by the virus. We are continuously conducting tests on remand prisoners and staff,” Mr. Singh said.

There are 15,064 inmates in prisons in the State, against a sanctioned capacity of 23,000

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:46:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/after-10-months-prisoners-get-to-meet-family-friends-again/article33584406.ece

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