Credit: EastMojo

Shillong: The Meghalaya Home (Jails) department has proposed to setup a Central jail in order to ease congestion in district jails.

As on September 30, a total of 984 prisoners are inside the five prisons across Meghalaya. In spite of many being released, the prisons still have 984 prisoners.

Acknowledging that there is congestion in the prison, Inspector General of (Prisons), M Kharkrang said, “I will not deny this fact that there is congestion. It is for this reason that we have resumed the construction of the Nongstoin jail and this is one way of decongesting. We are hopeful that by next year they would be able to hand over Nongstoin District Jail to us. Once this is completed we would be able to shift a number of prisoners from Shillong district jail to Nongstoin,” informed Kharkrang.

He further added that they have taken up with the government proposing construction of a central jail.

“We are planning to come up with the central jail on modern lines. The present jails are let off things which need to be added. The Central jail will be more of a correctional centre and not just a prison. We have taken it up with the government to provide us with the land at the New Shillong Township. We believe that the Government will be able to give us the land,” said Kharkrang.

He added that they have asked for 25 acres of land. With the huge land they aim to provide facilities like training centres and several other facilities in the central jail. He informed that the government is yet to respond to their request

“We need to change our perception of jails. It should be a correctional centre. Due to the paucity of space, we are not able to teach the prisoners various skills that will develop them, and subsequently when they leave the jail they will be able to get employment. It is for this we are looking to set up a central jail to have all these facilities. Once they complete their jail term then we will have something to look forward to,” expressed Kharkrang.

When asked how they manage with the congestion and with COVID-19 outbrak, Kharkrang said that the prisoners inside are the safest people provided they are able to control who are in contact with them. The people who come into contact with them are only the warders.

He said, “We have stopped contact with the outside world which means they would not be able to leave or meet their relatives. If they want to want to contact their relatives they are given the facility to contact with the telephone. We stopped all the visits to the jail.” Kharkrang added, “We have given them lots of educational program and our medical officer are teaching them how to prevent and all our jail staff have been equipped with all the body protective gear and once they enter the jail they have to be well protected so that they don’t transmit the virus inside the jail. The only way to decongest the jails is releasing them from the prisons.”

Before the prisoners tested positive for the virus, two isolation wards at the jail were set up. Even with the new prisoners admitted they were kept in these isolation wards and a test was carried out after 7 days before the prisoner could mingle with others.

Kharkrang said that despite all this, the prisoners tested positive and felt that it could probably be due to their contact with the new inmates.

“This time we had conducted random tests inside the jail and we found a number of them tested positive and probably they have contacted the virus from the people who have just come in. Ultimately we had no alternative than to convert the whole complete cell only for these people,” informed Kharkrang.

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