New Delhi, Aug 23 (PTI) Frequent medical screening of all inmates, introducing immunity-boosting fruits in their diet and spreading awareness about the importance of personal hygiene are some of the steps taken by the Delhi Prisons Department to contain the spread of COVID-19 among prisoners, jail officials said on Sunday.
The first case of coronavirus was reported in Rohini Jail on May 13. Two COVID-19 positive inmates of Mandoli Jail died on June 15 and July 4. Both were senior citizens, according to the officials.
They said ever since coronavirus cases came to notice early in March, the prison department stayed vigilant and instructed its staff to not only maintain hygiene and social distancing among themselves but to educate all inmates in three jail complexes -- Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli -- about them.
A major step that was taken towards maintaining social distancing was to decongest the jails.
Around 4,000 inmates were released in the department's decongestion drive. Out of them, 1,100 convicts were released on emergency parole while 2,900 undertrial prisoners were released on interim-bail. At present, there are 14,600 inmates in Delhi prisons, the officials said.
Director General (Delhi Prisons) Sandeep Goel emphasised that its decongestion drive and spreading proper awareness among the inmates as well as staffers played a huge role in tackling the pandemic.
He said restricted entry, repeated medical screening of inmates, isolation of those with symptoms, compulsory 14-day quarantine for new inmates were some of the key measures which were implemented since early March to check the spread of the deadly virus.
'We took timely precautionary measures. Every new inmate was isolated. After medical screening, we quarantined them initially for three-four days but soon we extended the quarantine period to 14 days which was compulsory for any new inmate,' Goel said.
'We increased our medical screenings. Any new inmate being brought here first underwent a medical screening before entering jail premises. It is conducted by a team of jail doctors. Only after he is declared fit, he is taken to his jail where he is medically examined for the second time to ensure he is fit and fine. This process of double medical screening helped us to ensure the safety and well-being of both inmates and our staff,' he added.
If during the first medical screening the inmate is found to be unwell, he is immediately sent to hospital. Apart from measuring the body temperature of prisoners, the jail doctors also ask them about their whereabouts. In case they have come from a containment zone, they are put under 14-day quarantine, a senior jail official said.
Besides, the jail staffers were also advised to not report to duty and remain at home in case they were unwell. They have also been provided with thermal guns, he said.
The Delhi Prison department said it tied up with the AYUSH Ministry for homeopathic medicines. The prisoners are being given homeopathic medicines for three continuous days once in two months to boost their immunity. Besides this, they are also being given lemon juice and other Vitamin C enriched fruit juices.
For mental well-being of inmates, about 70 jail staffers were trained for psychological counselling by psychologists of prisons, the officials said.
With adequate training, these staffers were then tasked to interact with inmates, especially new and senior inmates.
Lawyer-prisoner meeting through video calls started in June in all jails and from August, the video calling facility between the inmates and their family also began.
For now, it's functional in Jail no 4 and 6 of Tihar and soon this facility will be extended to all jails, the officials said.
The Delhi Prisons Department on Friday had stated that none of the prisoners in three jail complexes -- Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli -- are COVID-19 positive and that the situation in jails here has improved.
So far, 63 inmates of the three jails have tested positive for the infection and of them, 61 recovered and two died.
A total of 169 prison staffers -- 87 of Delhi jail and 82 of Tamil Nadu Special Police -- also contracted the infection. Of them, 167 personnel have recovered from the disease and two are undergoing treatment, according to the jail officials. PTI AMP SNE