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Maharashtra may release 5,000 prisoners to reduce congestion

Playing safe: The population of inmates is nearly 50% higher than the actual capacity in the State’s jails.   | Photo Credit: Rajendra G

In an unprecedented move, the State Government will facilitate the release of thousands of inmates from the State’s overcrowded jails as the number of COVID-19 cases rises in Maharashtra.

In an affidavit before the Supreme Court (SC), the State Home Department has suggested a proposal to release over 5,000 inmates on temporary bail or medical furlough as one of the several measures to reduce congestion in jails.

The recommendation says those facing a jail term of three to five years for petty crimes may be released on bail while medical furlough be given to first-time, low-risk, non-violent, and bailable offenders. The government response was filed as part of the affidavit submitted to the SC on Thursday.

Senior officials hope the numbers will bring down congestion by about 15%, from the current 36,000.

The population of inmates is nearly 50% higher than the actual capacity in almost 60 jails in the State. The temporary release will bring down the numbers closer to the capacity of 24,000 inmates, officials said. “We expect the congestion to come down between 15% and 20% if such a move is implemented. The SC can facilitate this by way of a decree or order and the States can follow suit depending on the congestion in prisons. We are prepared,” said a senior official.

The SC had last week asked chief secretaries of all States to respond by March 20 on measures against overcrowding in prisons following the COVID-19 outbreak. The court will take up the matter again on March 23.

Maharashtra has already started measures to curb congestion and prevent a coronavirus outbreak in jails. It has moved a number of inmates from the overcrowded Arthur Road Jail to Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai. One ward in Taloja has several barracks of 50 prisoners in each while the ward populations often add up to 500, officials said. “We have also started screening and regular cleaning of the prison in the wake of the outbreak,” said an official.

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 3:16:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-may-release-5000-prisoners-to-reduce-congestion/article31113060.ece

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