Work to complete isolation quarters continues amid Covid outbreak at prison

Vaccinations are underway at the penal institution (File photo by Observer media)
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By Kadeem Joseph

With 32 inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison 1735 testing positive for Covid-19, the Acting Superintendent of Prisons is assuring that measures have been taken to isolate these individuals from the general population.

Jermaine Anthony told Observer that the inmates who have tested positive have been isolated at the already cramped facility until the isolation quarters designated for the prison are completed. 

“We are in the process of retrofitting two barracks at the Crabbs training area – the Defence Force training facility,” he disclosed. “Presently there is a construction team there putting on the final touches and security aspects.”

The tasks needed to make the facility more secure include bars on windows and doors, proper fencing and a watch tower, among other security features, Anthony said. 

A date has not been given for completion.

In responding to questions about the prison’s present isolation guidelines, the acting head said while the situation is “not the best” officials are doing their best to make it work.

“I can tell you that it is far from ideal, but it is what we have and we have to make do with it and just get the facility at Crabbs completed in time, so as to avoid a situation of another group of positive results coming in where now we have that area in the prison [presently being used for isolation] becoming overcrowded now,” Anthony stated further. 

Last week, prison officials indicated that about 95 percent of the prison population had already been tested for Covid-19 and the results of those tests continue to be released in batches, which could mean more inmates could be confirmed positive.

The acting prison boss also indicated that infected prisoners continue to present without symptoms.

The issue of a potential outbreak of Covid-19 at the prison came up for debate when prison reform activist Jessica Thompson claimed during a video recording on social media that over 20 prisoners had been infected.

She had long pleaded for proper protocols for prison wardens who go in and out of the prison, and for the government to address overcrowding at the facility, among other concerns.

Last week, the acting prison boss not only refuted the claims but clarified that only one inmate had tested positive through a rapid antigen test during a visit to the Mount St John’s Medical Centre.

Vaccinations have also been started in the prison, with about 100 prisoners receiving their first dose and about 36 officers as well. 

Meanwhile, Anthony said work continues on the prison expansion project. Last year the government began efforts to improve the availability of cells at the facility which houses about 250 inmates but was only designed to house about 150.

“The work is continuing and as a matter of fact the pace has picked up quite a bit and in terms of the physical structure I would say we are about 50 percent complete,” he said.

Anthony said plumbing and electrical work still needs to be completed as well but said he was happy with the pace thus far.

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