Nepal’s jailbirds are at high Covid-19 risk, but keeping them safe is difficult

File: Central Jail

Kathmandu, September 1

As of Tuesday, 102 jailbirds and security personnel guarding them at the country’s Central Jail in Kathmandu have contracted Covid-19. It shows all jails in Nepal are prone to coronavirus infection.

Recently, the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Parliament directed the government to introduce a special plan to minimise the risk of the coronavirus spread in jails and police barracks. However, Dron Pokharel, the Department of Prison Management Director-General, says an effective solution is not immediately possible.

Minimising the risk requires lowering the number of inmates as all prisons across the country are overcrowded, but the jailbirds in a significant number cannot be released due to legal restrictions, informs Pokharel.

The prison law allows the government to release inmates yet to complete their sentences on various occasions, but people convicted of 19 types of crimes are on the negative list. “Those convicted of other crimes must have completed 50 per cent of their sentences and should have good conduct,” he says, “Around 70 per cent of the inmates are on the negative list currently.”

There are around 24,000 people in Nepal’s prisons including 14,000 convicts and 10,000 remanded in judicial custody. Even if the negative-list restriction is not considered, there are only around 6,000 inmates who have completed 50 per cent of the sentences, according to the department. Only the cabinet can decide if the negative-list bar is not implemented.

Meanwhile, many prisons of the country are preparing isolation wards within the prison premises as the number of cases is increasing, according to the department.

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Pokharel is an Onlinekhabar correspondent covering security and crime.

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