Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet earlier warned that neglecting prisoners in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic is "potentially catastrophic."
She urged the release of low-risk offenders and the sick, especially those vulnerable to infection, to prevent the spread of the virus in places already suffering from congestion and health issues, among others.
"People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent," Bachelet said. "Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible." (READ: 'Catastrophic' situation in jails if low-risk prisoners not released)
But even before this call, several countries already initiated the release of many of its prison population. What are these countries?
This page will be updated as more contries announce their plans in the coming days.
Afghanistan on March 26, said that it is working towards releasing at least 10,000 prisoners as part of its efforts to battle the coronavirus.
Prisoners who will be included are those aged 55 and above, women, children, and the sick, according to a report by Reuters. Members of Islamist militant groups are not included.
The release was formalized through a decree issued by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
As of Tuesday, April 7, Afghanistan has reported 337 cases with 7 deaths due to COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) dashboard.
India's Supreme Court on March 24 directed states and territories to set up panels that will discuss the possiblity of releasing inmates as a bid to counter the coronavirus outbreak.
It also recommended that convicts jailed for more than 7 years be considered, including those awaiting trial for offenses that may land them a sentence of maximum 7 years.
Indonesia already released 18,000 prisoners in the past few days, as the Southeast Asian nation grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.
The Indonesian government said it is planning to release a total of 30,000 people, mostly juvenile offenders and those who alreardy served at least two-thirds of their sentences. The country has at least 270,000 inmates in its 522 facilities.
Those released are advised to stay home and observe self-quarantine.
Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP
Iran so far already "temporarily released" more than 85,000 prisoners, according to a report by Al Jazeera.
Most of those released are low-risk and non-violent offenders serving short sentences. Releasing prisoners is one of the measures implemented by Iran, one of the countries hit hard by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
He ordered their release in stages due to “exceptional circumstances linked to the emergency health situation and necessary precautions” because of the virus.
According to the country's justice department, prisoners who will be pardoned were selected based on their health, age, conduct, and length of detention.
At least 4,000 prisoners detained in England and Wales are set to be temporarily released soon.
The UK's Ministry of Justice on April 4 announced that low-risk offenders will be released on the condition that they will be remotely monitored using electronic tags.
"They can be immediately recalled to prison for breaching these conditions or committing further offences," the ministry said in a statement.
Those not included are high-risk inmates"convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone of national security concern or a danger to children," and those who have not served half of their sentence.
At least 88 prisoners and 15 staff have tested positive for the virus in the UK.
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.