Prisoners at risk with daily court hearings

Prison IG asks home dept to exempt inmates from appearing in court

Raheel Salman March 17, 2020
KARACHI: Despite taking all the necessary precaution measures to secure prisoners from a potential coronavirus spread, jail officials continue to worry about the risk as prisoners continue to attend hearings at court.

Around 800 prisoners are taken to court for hearings everyday, where they encounter fellow prisoners, family, friends, police officials, court staff and others. Given the crowded conditions of jails, contact with anyone carrying the virus could lead to an outbreak inside the prisons.

In view of the threat, Prison IG Nusrat Hussain Mangan has appealed to the Sindh Home Department in a letter to exempt prisoners from appearing in court. However, a decision is yet to be made in this regard.

The letter has suggested that the home department request Sindh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh to immediately acquit prisoners over the age of 65 who are accused in minor cases. Moreover, it proposes that verdicts over bail pleas should be announced soon, while important cases should be heard through video link.

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Further, Mangan asked that the influx of new prisoners be suspended for a few days, remanding suspects to the police for the first 14 days so the accused can be kept at the police stations.

In line with precautionary directives, the only contact the prisoners currently have with visitors at the jails is via intercom. Justice Sheikh further ordered the screening of all inmates on Monday, along with the fumigation of the jails. He also instructed prison doctors to remain alert and the Sindh government to provide prison authorities with all equipment needed to screen those in custody.

As many as 200 to 300 new inmates are brought to these prisons daily. Upon arrival, they are examined and provided with masks. The same protocol is being followed for prisoners returning from court after their hearings.

Apart from the prisoners, senior superintendent Mohammad Hassan Sahato, deputy superintendent Kamal Shah and other officers and personnel have also been screened.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2020.


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