Vijayawada: The National Campaign against Torture (NCAT), a rights group based in New Delhi, in its report titled ‘The Status of COVID-19 in Indian Prisons’, found that of the 1,350 jails in India, COVID-19 infections have been reported in at least 351 jails in 25 states and Union Territories as of 31 August 2020. It further brought attention to overcrowding in jails which could trigger more outbreaks.

According to the report, the maximum number of COVID-19 infections in prisons was reported in Uttar Pradesh (35 jails), followed by Madhya Pradesh (34), Maharashtra (32), Odisha (31), Andhra Pradesh (28), Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu (21 each), Assam (19), West Bengal (18), Punjab (17), Bihar (15), Delhi (14), Jharkhand (13), Karnataka (9), Haryana (8), Kerala (7), Gujarat and Chhattisgarh (6 each), Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand (5 each), Telangana (3) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Goa, Puducherry, and Tripura (one each).

Andhra Pradesh has four Central prisons and as of 31 December 2019 the occupancy rate in these prisons was 112 per cent, an increase of two per cent from the previous year, according to the latest prison statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Though the number is below the national average of 123.87 per cent, it highlights the need to decongest the prisons amidst the pandemic.

The director-general of Andhra Pradesh prisons and correctional services, Md. Ahsan Reza, said there are around 8,000 inmates in the state’s prisons, including the Central prisons, sub-jails, and a few others. He further said the prisons are not overcrowded. At present, prisons have enough space to handle the situation and they have been taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus, he added.

Around 1,400 prisoners in various jails in the state have contracted COVID-19 and one prisoner in Vizag city (who was also on dialysis) died of the virus. The officials said that inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 are being treated in the respective jails because a majority of the cases are asymptomatic. The prison department has released over 430 prisoners on interim bail after the outbreak of COVID-19.

The four Central prisons are located at Vizag, Rajahmundry, Nellore and Kadapa. The capacity in the four jails are 3,764 (3,634 male and 130 female prisoners) but they have exceeded the limit and house 4,232 prisoners, including 4,138 male and 94 female prisoners, accounting for 112.43 per cent of the total prisoners in Andhra Pradesh as per the NCRB 2019 data.

The data also said that the overall occupancy rate in all the jails (around 105 jails) in the state is 86.2 per cent. A total of 7,579 inmates, including 466 female inmates, were lodged in various prisons in the state against its total capacity of 8,789 inmates.

Among the prison inmates in Andhra’s Central jails, 2,272, including 10 female inmates, are convicts, while 1,938, including 84 female inmates, are under-trails, and eight are detainees.

The data also showed that 1,858 inmates in Andhra Pradesh are serving life imprisonment. The number indicates that 66.6 per cent of the prisoners are serving life imprisonment against the national average of 53.5 per cent.

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