Overcrowding in prisons: 28,000 inmates in spaces for 11,000
- Around 11,000 PCR tests conducted in all prisons
- Over 1,000 inmates undergoing treatment for Covid-19
By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
Around 11,000 PCR tests have been conducted in all prisons around the country together with around 300 PCR tests conducted in the Mahara Prison alone, where the deadly riot occurred at the beginning of this week, according to State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemiology, and Coronavirus Disease Control Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle.
She told The Morning that there were around 1,098 Covid-19-positive inmates currently undergoing medical treatments in prisons around the country.
According to her, agitation in the prisons commenced a few months ago starting from the Boossa, Bogambara, Welikada, and Kalutara Prisons as the inmates hoped that they would be pardoned and sent home due to the Covid-19 situation.
Dr. Fernandopulle also noted that overcrowding has become one of the biggest reasons.
“As of Monday (30), there was a total of 28,000 prison inmates in prisons where only 11,000 can be accommodated,” she stressed, adding that most of them were remand prisoners.
“We were looking at different methods of reducing overcrowding by putting up new buildings. We had discussions with the Ministry of Justice and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also. This is the issue (overcrowding). With Covid, it has exploded,” she said.
According to her, there were around 183 Covid-19-positive inmates at the Mahara Prison and a majority of them were asymptomatic; steps have been taken to separate them from other inmates and keep them under care.
Furthermore, the State Minister noted that the Department of Prisons is also under staffed and running with a shortage of 2,000 officers.
“A new batch of prison officers (around 450) will be recruited shortly as per the examinations held last year,” Dr. Fernandopulle said.