Inmates are refusing pandemic-prompted parole from prisons in India, saying that they feel better protected from COVID-19 behind bars, according to reports.
The world’s second-most populous nation has been ravaged by the coronavirus in May, with daily death tolls in the thousands.
The grim reality on the outside has left some prison inmates clinging to the relative safety of their cells — to the point that 21 jailbirds recently refused temporary release aimed at reducing overcrowding, according to reports.
One such inmate, according to the Indian Express, is Ashish Kumar, a former teacher serving a six-year sentence in a Meerut prison for driving his wife to suicide.
“We had sent his request to the government for the approval. We have received the nod, which means that Ashish Kumar will remain in the jail ’til he completes his sentence,” the facility’s senior superintendent, BP Pandey, told the outlet.
A medical worker in PPE observes patients who have been infected by COVID-19 inside a makeshift care facility in a sports stadium at the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi on May 2, 2021.Getty Images/Getty Images
Of the 43 convicts in the Meerut prison offered the temporary, eight-week parole, Kumar was the only one to decline.
But an additional 20 inmates spanning eight other facilities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh also opted to stay in the clink, the report said, citing the Press Trust of India.
A prisoner undergoes a coronavirus test at a medical clinic on the premises of Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedbad, India, on October 2, 2020. SAM PANTHAKY/AFP via Getty Images
Prisoners wearing facemasks attend the launch of “Radio Prison” at Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, India, on October 2, 2020. SAM PANTHAKY/AFP via Getty Images
Men wearing PPE perform the last rites for a deceased relative in a disused granite quarry on April 30, 2021, in Bengaluru, India.Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images
Inmates who accept the offer have to make up the time behind bars at the end of their sentences, Anand Kumar, director general of jail administration, told PTI, explaining why some passed up the parole.
But their decision-making was also guided by a feeling they’d be better off on the inside, he said.
“The other overriding reason which they give is that if they go out, they will not get food and other health care facilities, which they get in the jails,” Anand Kumar reportedly said. “The inmates say health checkup is done regularly in the jails. They get food on time, they are safe and healthy in the jails. The inmates say that once they go out of the jail, they will have to struggle to make a livelihood.”
A health worker (right) sprays disinfectant at a medical clinic on the premises of Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedbad on October 2, 2020. SAM PANTHAKY/AFP via Getty Images
Prisoners wait to be released on parole for eight weeks from Naini central jail as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 in Allahabad on March 30, 2020. SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP via Getty Images
Earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court ordered prison officials to take steps to reduce crowding in correctional facilities as the pandemic laid waste to the nation.
As of Monday morning, India had seen more than 329,000 deaths from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.