Jammu: The COVID-19 vaccination of eligible jail inmates is in progress and was started from the ‘holding centre’ housing over 200 illegal immigrants from Myanmar here, Director General of Police, Prisons Department, V K Singh said on Saturday.
He said there are no coronavirus positive cases among over 4,500 inmates in any of the 13 jails across the Union Territory, which is a “big achievement” despite the lethal second wave which forced the department to suspend the physical meeting of the inmates with their relatives for their safety.
“The COVID-19 vaccination drive was started on April 6 from the Holding Centre Hiranagar in Kathua district, where 58 eligible internees were inoculated. Srinagar central jail saw 38 inmates being vaccinated against the dreaded infection on April 16 and another group of 16 inmates received a jab in district jail Rajouri on April 19,” Singh told PTI.
A total of 201 Rohingyas including 74 women and 35 children are presently lodged in the holding centre after they were found living illegally in Jammu city during a special verification drive in March.
According to government data, over 13,700 foreigners, including Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshi nationals, are settled in Jammu and Samba districts of Jammu and Kashmir, where their population has increased by over 6,000 between 2008 and 2016.
“The vaccination drive is in progress and will be intensified once adequate stocks of vaccines are available,” the DGP prisons said.
Against a total capacity of 3,426, there are 4,550 inmates lodged in 13 jails across Jammu and Kashmir. The inmates include over 1,000 suspected terrorists and 69 foreign nationals — 24 from Pakistan, 13 from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), 15 (Burma), eight (Nepal), five (Bangladesh), three (China) and one (Holland).
On the directions of the Supreme Court to decongest jails to ensure social distancing among the prisoners after the outbreak of the pandemic last year, the high-powered committee released 4,204 inmates on bail and 41 others on parole till March this year.
“The COVID-19 situation inside the jails is well under control as none of the inmates are positive for the infection. Given the prevailing (COVID-19) situation, it is a big achievement for the department,” Singh said.
While two elderly prisoners, one each from district jail Rajouri and Sub-jail Bhaderwah, having co-morbidities had succumbed to COVID-19, 542 prisoners recovered from the infection after successful treatment and various measures put in place by the department for the safety of the prisoners, he said.
“In view of the surge in COVID-19 cases within and outside J&K, we have once again suspended physical ‘mulaqat’ (meeting) of inmates with their family members with effect from April 27. However, to enable contact of inmates with their family members, telephone facility have been made available in all the 13 jails of the Union Territory,” the DGP Prisons said.
He said all new arrivals are accepted only with COVID negative certificates.
“If anyone is found positive, he or she is taken on the prison rolls but sent to Government Medical College (GMC) with guard till his or her report returns negative. Even negative cases on arrival are put in mandatory quarantine inside the jails,” he said.
Singh said the department is taking due care of the inmates to ensure that their immune system is in good form, allowed to talk to next of their kin and are involved in cultural and sports activities and encouraged to follow proper COVID behavior, wearing of face masks and regular use of sanitsers.
The department is also carrying out fumigation of the prison complexes regularly, he said.