The pandemic infections continue to rise in Odisha jails despite the fact that the four walls of prisons are considered safer spots because of its isolated environs, free from outside exposure.

As many as 54 prisoners, both convicted and undertrial, have tested positive for COVID-19 today at Rourkela special jail in Sundargarh district, officials said on Thursday. The jail had earlier reported 24 positive cases.

The COVID infection tally in the special jail has shot up to 78 with the latest detection of positive cases, officials added. The State has so far reported over 171 infections in jails with the majority of the cases from Berhampur circle jail, Choudwar circle jail and Rourkela special jail.

Of the 85 jails, infections have only been sourced from 11 jails so far. In each of the jails, isolation wards are in operation to lodge the new prisoners. They are being kept segregated from other inmates to check the infection, said senior officials of State’s prison administration.

With COVID infections spurting up, the State government has begun providing institutional treatment to the patients at the prison premises by converting jails in Berhampur and Rourkela as a COVID Care Centres.

To keep the jails free from infections, we have requested the State police administration to conduct RT-PCR tests of arrested persons before they are remanded to judic ial custody in jails, said Director General of Police (prisons and correctional services) Santosh Upadhyay.

Officials said over the last four months, 16,789 inmates including 5,231 inmates in Berhampur circle were released from jails across the state on parole to decongest prisons in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. A total of 17,509 inmates are lodged in the85 prisons of the state.

Besides, 1,200 inmates have been shifted to other prisons in order to reduce crowding. The jails in the state are currently not overcrowded as the prison administration has abided by the Supreme Court order and has decongested the prisons in view of the health emergency.

Prisoners were released on bails to avoid the overcrowding.

16,789 inmates have so far been released on bails while 17,509 inmates are currently lodged in the 85 prisons of the state.

“The source of infections is being traced out outside the jails. The new under-trial prisoners are being tested and they are mostly turning out to be positive cases. They are tested by police but by the time the report comes in, they are in jails as the last place of confinement. Jails cannot refuse a court’s order for custody whether positive or negative. The COVID guideline violation has led to the outbreak of infections in the jails”, confided senior officials of jail administration.