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Field Hospital Inside Notorious Lebanese Prison

Field Hospital Inside Notorious Lebanese Prison

Wednesday, 22 April, 2020 - 06:45
Inmates produce protective face masks, to be used by security members and inmates, inside Roumieh prison, Lebanon. Reuters
Beirut - Youssef Diab

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces have taken a series of measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease in the country’s overcrowded prisons.


“We have reduced family visits inside the prisons. The families of inmates are subject to medical tests before entering the facilities,” a security source told Asharq Al-Awsat.


He said direct contact is no longer allowed between inmates and their relatives. “They are separated by a plexiglass barrier and they speak by phone,” the source explained.


In Lebanon, most prisons are overcrowded, mainly the main Roumieh prison, which harbors Lebanon's most dangerous criminals, including extremists who pose a threat to national security and civil peace.


The parliament is discussing a dozens of laws, including a controversial draft about general amnesty.


Some politicians support the law, while others oppose pardoning inmates suspected of killing Lebanese soldiers.


Last month, Roumieh prison inmates called on the concerned authorities to approve the general amnesty law, to avoid a health disaster.


The prison’s three buildings were built in the 1950s to accommodate 1,500 inmates. Now, the prison is crammed with around 3,850.


“We are equipping the high-security wing at the Roumieh prison to turn it into a field hospital with large rooms and ready to receive between 150 to 200 beds for COVID-19 patients,” the security source said.


He said it was difficult to transfer prisoners to public hospitals, a process that requires tight security measures.


Head of the Beirut Bar Association Melhem Khalaf told Asharq Al-Awsat that he is working on two plans - First, to ensure the health of inmates and second to speed up measures to ease pressure on the country's overcrowded prisons.


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