Jail visits too go online, prisoners to 'meet' relatives via video calls

Jail visits too go online, prisoners to 'meet' relatives via video calls

Kottayam: The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated drastic changes in human activities and interactions. The need to ensure physical distancing to limit the spread of the causative coronavirus has resulted in the increasing adoption of online tools by offices, industries, hospitals and education institutions. Accordingly, prisoners lodged in the jails in Kerala will be allowed to interact with their relatives over video calls occasionally.

Jail officials have been assigned to familiarise prisoners with video conferencing, an order issued on Wednesday said. The facility will be made available in all prisons across the State.

The COVID-19 situation prompted authorities to introduce video conferencing facilities for prisoners to interact with their relatives. Software approved by the Central Home Ministry will be employed for the facility.

Authorities have conducted a three-month trial of WhatsApp video communication feature to enable prisoner-relative interactions. The decision to make online meetings a permanent fixture was made following the success of the WhatsApp experiment.

Instead of WhatsApp, video conferencing will be held henceforth over ePrisons, the National Prisons Information Portal, developed by the National Informatics Centre.

Relatives can register themselves for a meeting by clicking the eMulakat button provided on the top panel. Applicants will receive an e-mail, informing them of the time slot for the meeting. The mail will also provide the link for video conferencing.

Each prisoner can use the facility for five minutes every 15 days. Only close relatives will be permitted. Prison officials will monitor the video calls.

The facility will be rolled out in 53 prisons, including three central prisons in the State, which currently has about 7,500 prisoners. The Central Home Ministry had allocated Rs 1.7 crore to install the facility.

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