court hearings and virtual visits to a Dubai prison

Dubai (hooly News) – A detainee is interviewed by videoconference by a prosecutor, another attends a virtual hearing of his judgment, a third dialogue with a close friend thanks to Skype. Faced with the Covid-19 epidemic, a prison in Dubai uses modern technology.

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a member, has reported more than 26,000 people infected with the virus, including 233 deaths.

After the onset of the pandemic, visits to detainees were cut in prisons like that of Al-Awir, located in the middle of the desert, about 35 kilometers from the center of Dubai.

"We are trying to prevent direct contact with the detainees (…) by using modern technology a lot," Brigadier Ali al-Chamali, director general of Dubai prisons, told an hooly News reporter. from a visit to Al-Awir.

– "A handful" of cases –

"We can be sure that an inmate is not infected, but how do we know if someone coming from outside is not?" He said.

Prisoners can now speak to their families using videoconferencing technologies.

Mr. Chamali declined to say how many detainees had been infected with the coronavirus, while speaking of a "handful" of those infected.

He also assured that these were only mild cases that required no more than "isolation and simple treatment".

All prisoners and all prison staff were tested "without exception", in coordination with the official health authorities, assured Mr. Chamali.

The wearing of a mask and gloves is compulsory and some workshops have been closed as well as the gymnasium.

"We are looking to reduce contact and our main concern is to continue to provide the same quality of service," Badr Sultan, a prison doctor, said from his office, adding that medical consultations are now being conducted by videoconference.

In a prison health center, a dermatologist asks an inmate whom he sees on a screen to describe his problem, looks at his infected skin and then prescribes an ointment.

In another room, a psychiatrist tries to reassure an anxious inmate online.

– Releases –

To minimize the risk of contagion, the Dubai authorities have released hundreds of people imprisoned for petty crimes or unable to pay their bail.

"There are 30 to 35% fewer prisoners," said Mr. Chamali, without specifying figures.

"We want to further reduce the number of prisoners by releasing those who have committed minor crimes and keep only those accused of serious crimes," he added.

The measures taken to stem the pandemic were sometimes difficult to be accepted by the prisoners, some of whom spent their days in groups, for example in workshops.

In the Al-Awir prison, seven detainees worked in particular to make a cardboard replica of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, a large part of which already stands in a high-ceilinged room.

However, the project was suspended due to the release of some of these prisoners.

"The production of the replica is stopped," laments one of the detainees still imprisoned and who hopes that his work will be registered in the Guinness Book of Records.