Several organisations and individuals have sent a set of proposals to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and several others for their consideration on the release of prisoners to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
This comes in the wake of the announcement by the President’s Office that the committee appointed to make recommendations on the possibility of providing legal redress for the prisoners was instructed to look into the matter urgently given the spread of the new coronavirus.
The organisations and individuals welcomed the announcement of the formation of a committee to discuss the release of prisoners and de-congest prisons and said given the severe overcrowding of prisons with minimal sanitation and health facilities, they could be very vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
“They are also places where inmates are unable to practice preventive measures recommended by health experts, such as social distancing and hand washing with soap, as water and soap are not freely available to prisoners,” the letter said.
“De-congestion and other measures are also important to calm the fears of prisoners and prison staff about COVID-19 infections. Such fears have led to unrests in several prisons, leading to deaths and injuries, reportedly due to shooting in the Anuradhapura Remand Prison. There have also been COVID-19 related unrests and deaths in prisons in other countries, such as India, Colombia and Italy, which point to the potential for prisons to become hotbeds not only for the infection to spread but also for unrest and violence,” the letter added.
With regard to detainees at Police stations, they have requested to avoid detaining persons in Police stations unless absolutely necessary and release as many as possible on Police bail.