Moves to ease congestion in jails | Sunday Observer

Moves to ease congestion in jails

29 November, 2020
Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle

Prison authorities are taking measures to ease congestion in jails, in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19, Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

Following the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda Covid-19 clusters, the health authorities had detected a sub-cluster spreading across several prisons.

The number of patients, including inmates and prison officers, reported from prisons, neared 800 by Friday.

“From day one, we restricted visitors to prisons. We also stopped transfers between prisons, limited taking prisoners to the courts by conducting online hearings,” the State Minister said.

The Department of Prisons (DoP) believes that the virus may have entered the prison through new inmates.

The Department has taken measures to quarantine and conduct PCR tests of remand prisoners inmates before they enter the prison.

“We suspect that the cluster started from the female ward in the Welikada prison,” the State Minister said.

She said, “We evacuated the Welikada prison hospital and transferred all to Mahara.”

“We sent all female prisoners in Welikada to the Kandakadu Drug Rehabilitation

Centre. We do PCRs regularly and keep new remand prisoners separately.”

State Minister Dr Fernandopulle said over 7,000 remand prisoners are in custody for drug-related offences. Most of them are drug addicts too.

“We have decided to produce remand prisoners, who are in custody for possessing less than two grams of drugs in Courts and prosecute under section 78 instead of section 33.

With such provisions, the Magistrate can fine the offenders and send them for rehabilitation,” she said.

The ability of the PoD to take quick action and ease the congestion has been barred due to the delay from the Department of Government Analyst.

“We are waiting over 8,000 reports from the Government Analyst to proceed with court cases against drug-related offences,” the State Minister said.

The PoD has started improving the capacity of Pallansena and Wariyapola prisons to accommodate more convicts.