By Kadeem Joseph
The Superintendent of Prisons is assuring the nation that precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) amid the rapid increase in local Covid-19 cases.
In a recent interview with Observer, Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Philip said managing the Coronation Road facility during the pandemic has been “extremely difficult”, but he said, “inmates have been cooperating with our officers”.
“Inmates are safe in that they are not really going out and interacting,” he said.
He said, however, prison officers are continuously encouraged to wear their masks, adhere to social distancing protocols and proper hygiene practices.
Philip also commended the family members of inmates for their cooperation as well.
“They have been playing their part also, recognising the situation with Covid, where they may not see their loved ones as often as possible,” he said.
In lieu of actual in-person visitation, the prison boss said the facility has employed the use of technology, allowing for interaction via Zoom, albeit on a limited scale, with only two systems available.
“The plan is to have a proper building in place with the necessary hardware, in terms of computers where we can actually do that and that seems to be the way going forward,” he added.
To date, there have been no reports of either inmates or prison officers contracting Covid-19.
Philip said while two inmates who “came in on short notice” were tested for the virus because they believed they had encountered a possible Covid case, there has not been any other reason to test inmates.
Last week, the Cabinet said it is especially concerned with infections at institutions where many people are housed, to include HMP, the Fiennes Institute and Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital.
They said the jail is of special concern since the inmates are under the charge of the state; so too are the Fiennes Institute and Clarevue.
Prison activist Jessica Thompson had also issued a call, over the weekend, for more testing to be done inside the penal institution.
Currently, there are about 250 inmates incarcerated at the HMP, which was built to house approximately 150 people.
Construction on additional housing units at the prison is underway, as part of efforts to address the overpopulation.