Those absconding are getting arrested in the increasing numbers during pandemicWith loss of jobs they have been returning to their homes only for the police to rearrest them them acting on tip offs, but this has added to the woes of overstretched prison system.
For absconding criminals the pandemic has been a curse. Away from the eyes of the law they thought they were safe. But as they lost their jobs and the fear of being away from their families may have forced them to return to their homes. Only to be arrested by the police.
As a result, the overcrowded jails have added inmates.
“We have learnt that the increment [of the prison population] is mainly because more absconding criminals have been arrested during the pandemic,” Dorna Pokharel, director general at the Department of Prison Management, told the Post. “Those who were hiding mainly in different places in India and even within the country have been compelled to return because the pandemic took away their jobs.”
On Wednesday alone, the District Police Office, Syangja arrested 111 convicts and those who had been sent for judicial custody at different times.
According to the police, they had mobilised spies to trace the absconding people, some of them had been at large for as long as three decades. The rearrests were made after tip offs that they had returned to their places.
“It is common that people come to their places during festive seasons and the Covid-19 pandemic compelled even the people from the criminal background to return to their homes,” said superintendent of police and chief of Syangja district police Hobindra Bogati.
Arresting the absconding criminals has been their top most priority as per the directive from incumbent Inspector General Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, be said.
“The police force across the nation has been working towards implementing court orders,” he said. “The pandemic has definitely compelled more people to return to their places.”
He said the arrestees had either been convicted by the different courts or been sent to the judicial custody for their involvement in as many as 25 different criminal activities including murder, rape and attempted rape, banking fraud and looting among others.
A sizable number of people who commit crime in Nepal abscond to India through the open border to avoid arrests, authorities said.
Pokharel said on an average more than 200 inmates are being added in Nepal’s prison system every month for the last few months.
So many additional criminals being jailed a month is not normal during other times, according to him.
Across the country’s 71 prisons, there were 24,525 jail birds in the month of Shrawan (mid-July to mid-August) and this number increased to 24,773 next month.
“There has been an increment in the month of Ashoj (mid-September to mid-October) too though we released 289 inmates on Constitution Day,” he said.
Exact data for the month was not available since the Department of Prison Management is still compiling them from all the prisons across the nation.
But the increase in arrests have added to the stretched prison infrastructure.Capacity of the country’s prisons is only 16,000.
The Central Jail in Kathmandu, for instance, is holding around 3,100 prisoners against its capacity of 1,400.
Pokharel said while it is good that more fugitives are getting arrested, lack of infrastructure, however, is a headache in managing the increasing numbers of inmates.
Different studies have concluded that the government urgently needs to look at the problem in the prisons of the country.
Only last month the National Human Rights Commission said that as the cases of coronavirus are increasing at a rapid pace, keeping inmates safe in overcrowded prisons has become a challenge.