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The Meghalaya's Home (Jails) department has submitted a proposal to the state government to construct a modernised Central Jail in Shillong.
Informing this, Inspector General (Prisons), Mariahom Kharkrang informed that they had requested the state government to allot 25 acres of land for construction of the Central Jail at the New Shillong Township.
According to him, the Central Jail will be more of a correctional centre rather than a prison adding that there is a need to change the perception about jails.
Kharkrang said that they are considering of providing facilities like training centres to equip the prisoners with various livelihood skills which will help them get employment once they leave the jail.
At present, the initiative cannot be rolled out in the Shillong District Jail due to paucity of space.
Meanwhile, IG (Prisons) informed that there are 984 prisoners inside the five prisons across the State, as on September 30, 2020.
Kharkrang also admitted that there is congestion inside the Shillong District Jail.
"It is for this reason (that) we have resumed the construction of the Nongstoin District Jail. We are hopeful that by next year they would be able to hand over Nongstoin District Jail to the department. Once this is completed, we would be able shift a number of prisoners from Shillong District Jail to Nongstoin," IG (Prisons) informed.
Reacting to a question on steps taken to ensure prisoners are not exposed to COVID-19 risks, Kharkrang said that the prisoners inside are the most safest people, provided they can control the people who come into contact with them.
"The people who come into contact with them are only the wardens. We have stopped contact of the prisoners with the outside world and this means they would not be able to meet their relatives," he said.
If they (prisoners) want to contact the relatives, they are provided with facilities like a telephone or mobile phone to get in touch with their family members.
"We (have) stopped all the visits to the jail. We have given them lots of educational programme and our medical officers are teaching the jail inmates how to prevent (themselves from the virus) and all our jail staff have been equipped with all the body protective gears," he said.
Furthermore, the IG (Prisons) said that when the COVID-19 broke out in the state, they had constructed two isolation wards at the Shillong District Jail.
"Any new accused sent to the prison are kept in the isolation ward. After seven days, he is allowed to mix with the other population, on receiving his medical test report that confirms that he has no symptoms," Kharkrang said.
He, however, said that there are a number of prisoners who were tested positive during the random testing inside the jail adding that they probably contracted the virus from the new inmates.
"Ultimately, we had no alternative but to convert the whole cell as an isolation cell only for the COVID positive prisoners," IG (Prisons) added.