Prisoners who were released on parole in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic will be sent back to jails again in Punjab, subject to a negative test report, officials said on Sunday. “In the light of substantial downward trend in cases of COVID in Punjab, the high powered committee constituted by the Supreme Court of India for dealing with COVID in prisons has decided not to extend the parole of prisoners any further,” said an official spokesperson of the Punjab Jails Department.

A committee headed by Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Ajay Tewari, Principal Secretary (Jails) D K Tiwari and ADGP (Prisons) P K Sinha recommended that all the prisoners surrender back to the prisons, which have been designated specifically for quarantining the returnees before testing and transferring them to their respective prisons. The whole process shall be done in a phased manner starting February 17, for which ‘first out-first in’ mechanism shall be followed, which means prisoners who have availed the longest period of parole would report back to the prisons first.

The spokesperson further said a schedule for return of around 650 to 700 prisoners in one batch every 9 to 10 days has been circulated to all the authorities concerned. “All the parolees are required to report at the designated jail (Barnala or Pathankot for male; Malerkotla for female) with a negative COVID test report (RT-PCR only) received within three days preceding the surrender,” said the spokesperson. They will be quarantined in the jail for four days (including the day of surrender), and their COVID sample will be collected on the fifth day, following which they will be transferred to their respective prisons, said the spokesperson.

If any prisoner tests positive in the pre-admission test, he/she shall inform the superintendent of the designated prison and shall report on the 18th day from the date of the result. As the return is planned in a phased manner, the parole of all the prisoners released in 2020 and presently out on parole shall stand extended till the date on which they have been asked to surrender at the respective designated jails created for this purpose. Prisoners above 60 years of age and those with chronic co-morbidities shall be taken back in the last batch of parole returnees, said the spokesperson.

However, this schedule shall not apply to prisoners released on parole in the year 2021, who shall return to the respective special jails, as and when their parole period expires.

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