Although Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted in the nation’s capital, Delhi’s three prisons of Mandoli, Rohini and Tihar will continue with the video conferencing facility allowing prisoners to talk with loved ones, prison officials have said. , adding that the decision was made after several prisoners. informed them that they preferred the online mode of interaction.
To put that into perspective, hybrid meetings (both online and in-person) are now a thing of the past in almost every industry. Amid dwindling Covid-19 cases, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has already ordered schools to reopen. Additionally, virtual hearings, a regular feature of lower courts as well as the high court, have given way to in-person hearings.
Admittedly, prison officials have clarified that this does not mean that in-person meetings will be halted. Prisoners will still be able to meet their relatives twice a week, which is the current rule.
But in Delhi’s three prisons, the infrastructure for video conferencing facilities will increase, officials familiar with the matter said, adding that the prisons department has plans to install more computer terminals in each prison. The department will also put in place a framework for hybrid meetings, which will detail how inmates will be able to use videoconferencing facilities with in-person meetings.
Records from the three prisons showed that at least 923 prisoners used the video-conferencing facilities on Tuesday, while 1,378 met their loved ones in person at the prison complex. In February, at least 8,496 prisoners used the video call feature, while 8,470 met relatives in person.
“We realized during the pandemic that video conferencing was a better way for inmates to stay in touch with loved ones. Indeed, during the pandemic, when all physical visits were banned, there were fears that large numbers of inmates would sink into depression. But as soon as the video call feature was launched, we found that inmates actually preferred this mode. Even they did not want their relatives to come to the prison at the risk of being infected. The importance of video meetings is a key lesson from the pandemic,” said a senior prison headquarters officer, asking not to be named.
Chief Executive (Prisons) Sandeep Goel has confirmed that Delhi Prisons will continue the hybrid mode of prisoner-relative encounters. “Videoconferencing will be maintained for inmates who wish to opt into this facility. In the future, video conferencing terminals will also increase,” he said.
However, foreign inmates are not allowed to use video conferencing facilities for security reasons, but they will be allowed to make phone calls, prison officials said.
Lawyer Pradeep Rana, who regularly interacts with prisoners via video conference, said: “The pandemic has taught us the benefits of video conferencing. It saves time and money and people don’t have to travel long distances to prisons to meet their relatives. Courts should also maintain videoconferencing facilities, if the client and his lawyer consent. I would ask the Corrections Department to allow inmates to use headphones during video conferences so that inmate privacy is preserved.