New Delhi: The female prison in Delhi’s Tihar jail has recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases across all jails in the national capital, ThePrint has learnt.
Delhi has three prisons — Tihar, Mandoli and Rohini. There are a total of 16 divisions in these prisons, categorised as jail no. 1 to 16. Jail no. 1 to 9 are in Tihar, jail no. 10 is in Rohini and jail no. 11 to 16 are in Mandoli prison.
Jail no 6 in Tihar and Jail no. 16 in Mandoli — are for women.
“Jail no. 6, a female jail of Tihar prison, has the highest number of Covid-19 cases with 42 positive female inmates. The second highest number of active cases — 33 — are in jail no. 3, this is a jail for male prisoners,” DG, prisons, Sandeep Goel told ThePrint.
Jail no. 16 has only two Covid-positive cases, he said.
While jail no. 6, which has a capacity of 400 inmates, has 440 lodged currently, jail no. 16, with a capacity of 280, has 210 female inmates lodged at present.
According to prison data, accessed by ThePrint, a total of 267 inmates in all the three prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2021 in the second wave of the pandemic, out of which 22 have recovered so far.
“92 prison officials have tested positive since March this year with just one recovery,” Goel said.
Asked why there is a surge in Covid cases among female inmates in Tihar, Goel said, “There is no specific reason behind this. In fact, female prisons are the least crowded. All facilities are also proper there.”
The DG, however, added that the infected prisoners “could have contracted the virus from “asymptomatic jail officials”.
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The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought a response from the Centre and Delhi government on a plea for temporary release of prisoners lodged for non-heinous crimes to decongest jails.
Last year, the courts had ordered the release of 1,182 convicts on emergency parole to avoid overcrowding in Delhi prisons. Of these, while 1,072 returned, 112 did not and they are being tracked with the help of Delhi Police.
The process of returning from parole started on 7 February this year and prisoners were supposed to return by 6 March.
Further, a total of 5,556 undertrials were also released last year, of which only 2,200 have returned after the parole ended on 6 March. The rest are yet to surrender.
In the three prisons — Tihar, Mandoli and Rohini — over 20,000 prisoners are lodged currently even though the sanctioned capacity is only for around 10,000 inmates.
Tihar, which has a capacity of 5,200 inmates, has over 13,500 inmates lodged currently, said prison officials.
A 45-year old prisoner, Mohammed Anish, lodged in Tihar died Tuesday, a day after testing positive for Covid-19. He was in prison since December 2019 in a case under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
This is the third death among inmates lodged in Delhi prisons since the pandemic broke out last year. The first two succumbed to the virus in June 2020 and were lodged in Mandoli jail.
Jailed gangster Rajendra Nikalje, popularly known as Chhota Rajan, was rushed to AIIMS, Delhi, Tuesday after he tested positive. He was lodged in Tihar jail no. 2, in a separate ward, in solitary confinement.
Earlier, gangsters Shahabuddin and Neeraj Bawana, who were also lodged in solitary confinement in Tihar prison complex, have tested positive for Covid-19.
Former JNU student and activist Umar Khalid had also tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week and has been in isolation inside the Tihar prison complex.
The Rohini prison has over 1,700 lodged whereas it can only accommodate about a 1,000. Mandoli prison has over 4,500 inmates and its capacity is about 3,700.
“The prison administration has already suspended meetings between prisoners and their families, following the surge of Covid-19 cases across Delhi. It is quite a challenge to maintain proper social distancing among prisoners, but we are trying our best. Wards are sanitised regularly and anyone with symptoms is isolated immediately,” the DG prisons said.
According to the protocol, any new inmate has to undergo a 14-day quarantine period in a separate ward and also has to undergo a mandatory Covid-19 test followed by health screening.
According to prison officials, more than 450 inmates across all the prisons have so far been vaccinated. The vaccination process for jail inmates started on 18 March.
The Delhi Prisons Department, meanwhile, is educating prisoners on the vaccination drive.
“We are encouraging all prisoners to get vaccinated. The process for those above the age of 45 is already on. The others will get vaccinated once it starts,” Goel added.
“Kin of the inmates have been informed and asked to provide required documentations for the vaccination process,” said a senior jail official.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)
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