STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: The Jammu and Kashmir Prisons Department not only ensured safety of thousands of inmates amid the coronavirus pandemic, but also went the extra mile by introducing video conference to facilitate timely trial and telephone facility to connect with their families, an official said.
The department also undertook cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia to help the inmates to overcome sleep disorders, besides setting up modern interview rooms and opening welfare blocks in different jails, according to Director General of Prisons V.K Singh.
A total of 536 inmates in various jails have tested positive for the pathogen so far. While 533 of them recovered, two elderly prisoners, both in their 70s, died. A prisoner, who recently tested positive for the virus in Srinagar Central Jail, is still under treatment, Singh said.
Talking on the major initiatives taken by his department in 2020, Singh said the capacity of the prisons was increased to 3,660 inmates from 3,234 in 2019, although it is 500 short of the present requirement.
High-risk blocks were constructed at the Srinagar Central Jail, segregation blocks at the Jammu Central Jail and the district jails of Kupwara, Anantnag and Baramulla and sub-jail Hiranagar, the official said.
The department is accommodating 4,163 inmates in 14 functional jails, which include two central jails, nine district jails, two sub-jails and a special jail, he said.
As many as 2,703 undertrials have been released on bail and 41 convicts on normal parole this year on the recommendation of a high-powered committee, which was constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court to decongest jails to ensure social distancing among the prisoners, Singh said.
The panel met eight times through video conference under the chairmanship of Justice Rajesh Bindal, the acting chief justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, said Singh, who is also one of the members of the committee.
The prisons department is entrusted with the responsibility of providing correctional services to the inmates in an environment conducive for reformation.
“Video conference between jails and courts has been introduced for the trial and remand of inmates and the average disposal of cases through this mode for the current month was 100 per cent,” he said.
He said the prison inmate calling system (PICS) has been introduced in three main jails, enabling inmates to call their family members as meetings was stopped due to the pandemic.
Modern interview rooms have been established at various jails, while a welfare block with a barbershop, canteen, gymnasium, recreation hall, bakery and PICS has been established at Srinagar Central Jail, Singh said.
He added that the the ‘CJ-bakery’ at Srinagar jail would run on commercial lines, with a major part of profit accruing to the inmates working in the bakery.
In order to address sleep problems for better health and reformation of inmates, the DG said the cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) was successfully conducted at Amphalla district jail in Jammu with a target group of 61 inmates in collaboration with faculty members from the psychology department of the Jammu University and Government College for Women.
As a result, 66 per cent had benefited over a period of three months with corresponding improvement in health, he said, adding that it had also started at Jammu Central Jail with a target group of 74 inmates.
To safeguard the inmates from the pandemic, Singh said a standard operating procedure was issued in March and necessary precautions were taken to secure health and well-being of the staff and the inmates, while temporary jails near jail complex in Srinagar, Anantnag, Kathua and Rajouri were set up to isolate coronavirus-positive prisoners.
“All new prisoners have to undergo mandatory COVID-19 tests and quarantine for 14 days,” he said, adding 141 inmates are presently under quarantine across the prisons.
A large number of face masks were manufactured in jails for use of staff, inmates and public. The AYUSH Ministry also organised awareness programmes regarding preventive health measures, the officer added.