Prison sentence: Lives of those returning to jail after COVID-19

Location IconNorth West Delhi district, Delhi; West Delhi district, Delhi

In 2020, due to COVID-19 and the need to decongest prisons, a high-powered committee set up by the Supreme Court released more than 3,000 undertrial prisoners and convicts in Delhi on interim bail or parole. On March 25, 2023, the court ordered all of them to return within 15 days.

Three years is a long time. In that period, there have been many changes in the lives of the people who were out on bail.

Nagender, a resident of Rohini in Delhi’s North West district, struggled for a year to get a job. He says, “It took me one year to find a part-time job. If you go looking for a job in the private sector, the first thing they do is verification; they get to learn about my background.” While he juggles part-time work and his job at a cyber cafe, his uncle—who was a source of financial and moral support for him during his days in prison—is now paralysed. This means his brother and he are the sole earners of their joint family of 12 people.

After facing similar challenges in getting employed, Shubhankar—who lives in Nangloi in Delhi’s West district—started working as a salt seller before borrowing money to set up a shop. Now, since he is supposed to return to jail, his family will struggle to keep the business running.

He says, “My father had COVID-19, and his medical condition is not good. He has an infection in his hand, and his fingers don’t work any more. I’m the one responsible for our household income. I haven’t told anyone in my family about having to return to prison. I don’t want to stress them.”

Shubhankar is worried about the consequences of not being able to repay the loan he took. “Now when I surrender and don’t give back the money I borrowed, I will look like a fraud. No one will help me again.”

Nagender is also a field worker at Project Second Chance, a nonprofit in Delhi focused on prison reform. Shubhankar is a microentrepreneur based in Delhi.   


Know more: Learn how a man detained as an ‘illegal immigrant’ in Assam lost his bail plea due to poor handwriting.

Do more: Connect with the authors at [email protected] to learn more about and support their work.


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