Prisons and county jails are ‘powder kegs’ that can blow in coronavirus pandemic. Till Monday, at least four people in US prisons tested positive for COVID-19 which includes Harvey Weinstein. Also, many cases have been confirmed among inmates and staff at New York City’s jail especially Rikers Island.
The conditions of prisons are ripe for a widespread outbreak as inmates are kept in small cells in usually crowded conditions with limited supply.
Kate Chatfield, senior adviser for legislation and policy at the Justice Collaborative said, “If you think a cruise ship is bad, think of a prison. They’re sitting ducks.”
With this we come to the situation of prisoners in Pakistan. An essential step has been taken by Islamabad High Court (IHC) to grant bail to 408 prisoners imprisoned at Adiala Jail under minor offenses amid coronavirus fears. The bail petitions of the prisoners were approved by the Chief Justice Athar Minallah.
A committee has been materialized by the bench to release 408 prisoners on bail. Director General Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), deputy commissioner, I.G. Police, and other concerned officials are included in the committee.
Earlier, it was decided by the district administration in Islamabad to release the prisoners jailed over petty crimes as there was fear of the spread of coronavirus in overcrowded jails. The Islamabad administration decided that it will release 230 prisoners in the first phase on bail, jailed over petty crimes.
Those prisoners who got free were jailed for their involvement in different cases including dishonored cheques, beggars act, and other minor crimes.
A hearing was conducted by the IHC Chief Justice Athar Minullah on a case involving 1,362 prisoners being incarcerated in overcrowded jails. The court inquired from officials whether prisoners facing jail-term without having been tried could be released, during the hearing.
The court was assured by the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqat that no prisoner held at Adiala Jail has been infected with the coronavirus.