COVID-19: Assam releases over 3,550 inmates to decongest jails

Guwahati: Over 3,550 inmates, including 300 lodged in detention camps, have been released from jails across Assam since March to decongest the prisons in the wake of novel Coronavirus pandemic, a senior official said on Sunday.

Of them, around 1,700 prisoners were released following a Supreme Court ruling in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19, while others got out of jails as per normal legal procedure, Assam Inspector General of Prisons Dasarath Das said.

He said the state’s 31 jails currently house 8,510 inmates against the sanctioned capacity of 8,938.

“We have released a total of 3,577 inmates so far from different jails across the state since the coronavirus crisis emerged in March. This includes 3,161 undertrials, who were released on bail and personal bonds,” he told PTI.

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Das said 101 convicts have been allowed to go home on annual leave, while 15 more were released on parole.

Eligible convicts get 30 days of annual leaves for emergency purposes as per rules.

“We have also released 300 people from detention camps after the Supreme Court order. At present, there are 479 inmates in six detention camps,” the IG said.

“With only 8,510 inmates, we are at a comfortable level now and implementing social distancing norms inside jails. Though we have released a huge number of prisoners, new inmates are coming in regularly. That is why the total number is not going down drastically,” he said.

Citing an example, Das said 76 prisoners were released on May 15, but 60 new inmates came in on the same day, resulting in only 16 effective releases from jails.

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The state has six central jails, 22 district jails, one open-air jail, one special jail and one sub-jail. Besides, there are six detention camps to lodge suspected and declared foreigners.

On March 23, the Supreme Court had directed all states and Union Territories to constitute high-level committees to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and undertrials for offences entailing up to 7-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In another order on April 13, the apex court had reduced the required time to be served in a detention camp to two years from the earlier three and the surety amount to Rs 5,000 from the previous Rs one lakh.

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