Acting Superintendent of Prisons, Jermaine Anthony, has confirmed that “a significant amount of officers” have been filing for sick leave out of concern for their safety on the job at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP).
The prison has reported 35 infections (32 inmates and three corrections officers) of Covid-19 and is still awaiting the results of more than 100 samples from testing conducted almost two weeks ago.
“We’re now starting to see officers reporting sick and sending medical certificates and that is understandable. People are now starting to become fearful for their own safety and their loved ones at home but we still have a core of dedicated officers who come out to work,” he explained.
Anthony said the officers’ ailments have not been specific, referring to the reasons for their illness as “generic codes that doctors use”.
“Based on what the medical certificates are saying, they are unfit to work and they will be fit to return in the next two weeks,” he noted.
While the acting prison boss said they are managing as best they can, he acknowledged the strain that the officers’ absence is having on the penal institution which currently houses about 300 inmates.
The limited manpower, Observer understands, has caused remaining officers to frequently cover double and triple shifts.
Anthony shared that his entire administrative department has been placed in quarantine and that the operations department responsible for security and inmate movements has been reduced as officers became infected with Covid-19 and others call in sick.
Several inmates who worked in the kitchen were also infected with the virus and had to be replaced by other inmates to ensure that the food remains in adequate supply.
Meanwhile, Anthony balked at the suggestion he should offer an apology to prison activist Jessica Thompson who alerted the public of 21 cases of Covid at the prison at a time when the authorities denied it.
“In regards to any apologies that she thinks she is entitled to, I have no inclination or time to dedicate such to her and no time now or for the foreseeable future,” he said. “There will be no apology coming from me as I stand by the facts as I presented them last Saturday.”
He told Observer that the prison administration is fully engaged in managing the crisis within the institution.