GUWAHATI, June 8 - Post lockdown, occupancy rate of the four out of the five notoriously crowded Central Jails in Assam have gone down below the actual capacity, a feat which was unthinkable to achieve till a few months back.
However, with an undertrial prisoner testing positive, the rate of decongestion might go up further.
Drastic fall in the occupancy rate has also been witnessed in almost all the district jails barring the one located at Nalbari.
In fact, if the rate of the inmates getting released on personal bond, bail or parole is any indicator, all the 31 jails in Assam could get rid of the tag of being overcrowded in less than a month�s time.
�Except the Guwahati Central Jail, the occupancy rate of all the other four Central Jails located at Tezpur, Silchar, Dibrugarh and Jorhat have gone below its actual capacity, which was unthinkable till a few months back,� a top official of the Prisons department told The Assam Tribune.
�Often been criticized for being overcrowded, the coronavirus-induced preventive action plan proved to be a blessing in disguise. We do not remember when so many jails got decongested in this manner within such a short span. Several plans were mooted to ease jail congestion but none fetched the desired result,� the official said.
While the total capacity of Tezpur Central Jail is 797, the current occupancy stands at around 420. Similarly, while actual capacity of Silchar, Dibrugarh and Jorhat is 479, 680 and 670, the current occupancy is 466, 468 and 566 inmates respectively.
Ever since the lockdown was announced, more than 4,000 undertrial prisoners have gone out on personal bond from various jails in Assam while the number of declared foreigners who were released on bail stands at 627.
Official sources told this reporter that barring Guwahati Central Jail and the Nalbari district jail, the number of surplus inmates in majority of the jails is not more than 20. Compared to the actual capacity of Guwahati (1,000) and Nalbari (155) Central Jails, the current occupancy of both the prisons is around 1100 and 350 respectively.
As on today, the total number of inmates in all the 31 jails in the State is hovering around 8,000 mark, which in pre-lockdown period, was way about to touch the 14,000-mark.
The Supreme Court had on March 24 directed all States and Union Territories to set up high-level panels which would consider releasing all convicts who have been jailed for up to seven years on parole to decongest jails to prevent spread of Covid-19.
Sources opined that the decongestion might improve the efficiency level of understaffed jail management, who would not have to deal with less number of prisoners.