Prison boss says security and education top HMP’s 2024 agenda

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Superintendent of Prisons, Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Pennyfeather (file photo)
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While most residents may be attempting to burn off the consumption of Christmas ham and turkey, Antigua and Barbuda’s lone correctional facility seems set to bulk up its operations as we enter the new year.

Superintendent of Prisons, Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Pennyfeather shared with Observer media some of the plans and discussions that the public could see implemented under this watch in 2024.

One of the first items that he seemed to have already gotten off the agenda was the procurement of CCTV cameras and baggage scanners for His Majesty’s Prison (HMP).

“We have already made some orders for equipment as well as operational uniforms and we have gotten the tick on that,” he remarked.

He explained that the cameras—through the support of telecommunications giant, Digicel—will cover the entire perimeter of the prison.

Colonel Pennyfeather said other equipment will be arriving within the next six months to help reduce the usage of cell phones by prisoners within the prison, including electronic jammers.

The prison boss, meanwhile, spoke about the need to address overcrowding at the HMP — a concern that has been raised by family of the prisoners and activists over the years.

“There are two areas within the prison that needs to be addressed: there is the Division B [where] that roof needs to be put back and there is also strengthening of the security of the new wing—what we call the new wing—which are the containers that hold the less dangerous criminals.

“We are trying to strengthen those areas, improve the security of those areas so that prisoners can be held in a more secure area.

The government has been taking a closer review of the prison system, following Colonel Pennyfeather’s installation as the head of His Majesty’s Prison.

Expectation over the construction of a new facility has dwindled over the years with the government looking to revamp the current structure to better fit the increasing population in the country, including a Bill introduced by the Attorney General to rename His Majesty’s Prison as Antigua and Barbuda Correctional Facility.

The Prison Superintendent said he has received assurances that personnel will be increased by 30 before the end of the first quarter of 2024.

“That will significantly improve the complement of officers I have on each shift,” Pennyfeather remarked.

He added that one of the major challenges he faced in 2023 was ensuring that the prison officers executed their roles professionally and effectively.

To this end, the officers will be receiving additional training, including refresher courses within the first quarter, to boost effectiveness and professionalism.

Meanwhile, the rehabilitation and well-being prisoners were not forgotten by the Superintendent of Prisons, who said that re-energising rehabilitation programmes for prisoners, including development of their mental well-being, is being looked at for the new year.

“We have sought to get additional sponsorship through some of the corporate citizens to assist us…particularly with the GARD Centre.

“There is a historical relationship that we had with the GARD Centre, and I am trying to have it resuscitated and that is what I am doing from the rehabilitation side because we’re looking at it academically, vocationally, spiritually and emotionally,” Colonel Pennyfeather explained.

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