Fears of a Covid-19 cluster are raised by Puzhal prison’s overcrowding.

Chennai: The death of a Puzhal prison inmate of post Covid complications on Thursday has sparked fears of a possible cluster as the city jail remains overcrowded. While the block for remand prisoners is crammed with 2,000 inmates against a capacity of 1,250, that for convicts too is overflowing. More than a week since the Supreme Court advised states to decongest jails by sending inmates on pandemic-time parole, Tamil Nadu is yet to consider the suggestion. In Chennai alone, 50-60 prisoners are escorted to courts daily for trial or remand extension. On Tuesday, law minister S Raghupathi visited the Puzhal prison and reviewed the arrangements director (prisons) director Sunil Kumar Singh and inspector general of police (in charge) Murugesan. The minister examined the kitchen, fuel refilling station and the superintendent’s office.Sunil Kumar Singh said no one is admitted directly to the prison. “They are sent to sub-jails after taking swabs for a Covid-19 test. Those testing positive are sent to the government hospital.”On an average, 250-275 prisoners from sub-jails in Saidapet, Tiruvallur, Madurantakam, Ponneri, Kancheepuram and Poonamallee are admitted to the remand wing at Puzhal every Saturday. But, activists say there are no checks for the 500 police personnel who act as escorts – for every prisoner.An official said at least five prisoners including Sri Lankan national Madhukula Suryah were admitted to the Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital. While Suryah died after recovery, two prisoners remain at the hospital and the others have returned to Puzhal. The prison official said 250-300 prisoners were being taken to the various courts every day before the lockdown came into effect on May 10. While this has come down to an average of 50-60 prisoners a day, S Karthikeyan, a lawyer practising at the Madras high court, said prison officials should bring in a mechanism to check police personnel escorting the prisoners. The remand wing, which comprises a quarantine block, two high-security blocks, a prison hospital and one for ‘A’ class prisoners, can house 1,250 people but now has about 2,000 prisoners.

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