Over 1,200 Prisoners, Staff Contracted Covid-19 In Congested Jails

Malaysian prisons are at 44% over-capacity.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — A total of 1,156 prisoners and 83 prison staff and family members have tested positive for Covid-19 nationwide as of November 2, Deputy Home Minister II Jonathan Yasin told the Dewan Rakyat today.

At the same time, Jonathan said that as of October 19, the number of prisoners (66,791) nationwide is 43.88 per cent more than the actual capacity of jails that can only accommodate 46,420 prisoners.

“For the status of Covid-19 cases in the prison according to the total number of Covid-19 cases that I mentioned earlier, the total number of Covid-19 cases among prisoners shows a decline in the two weeks. At the same time, the Prisons Department has strengthened the existing standard operating procedures in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH),” Jonathan told the Dewan Rakyat.

“The Prisons Department also has a permanent instruction, among which is to ensure all prisoners that enter or go out of the prison has a Covid-19 screening result.”

Furthermore, the deputy home minister said that the Prisons Department is in discussion to place low-risk prisoners in terms of safety at National Service camps.

Jonathan also highlighted that the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the Prison Departments have formed a special task force to analyse Covid-19 outbreaks in prison.

Lumut MP Hatta Ramli, during Question Time in Parliament, had asked the Minister of Home Affairs to state reform measures on the prison system in Malaysia, after the rapid spread of Covid-19 among prisoners and prison staff in Malaysia.

Jonathan replied, saying that the government has implemented several measures to reduce overcrowding, such as sending prisoners to recovery centres outside prison, strengthening the parole system, industry integration programmes, and so on which could curb the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.

It was reported that Indonesia has released 30,000 prisoners, which is about 10 per cent of its prison population, while Myanmar has freed nearly 25,000 prisoners to reduce overcrowding in the prison.

Health experts have said that crowded cells would make ideal breeding grounds for coronavirus infection, as social distancing is almost impossible to be practiced in a crowded area.

Correction note: CodeBlue misattributed the spokesperson’s remarks to Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin. It was Deputy Home Minister II Jonathan Yasin who made the reply in the Dewan Rakyat. The report has been corrected.

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