The island’s top prison officer is expressing concern over daily security risks being faced by officers at the HMP Dodds.
However, Prison Superintendent Lt Col John Nurse told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that there was little prison officials could do about those risks.
The prison chief said officers were in the presence of potentially violent inmates daily, and had to contend with prisoners and members of the public bringing in infectious diseases and inmates with mental problems.
“That is the profession that we are in. That is what we signed up for. Knowingly. . . we have a job that is difficult, it is challenging, so that when we come, we ought not to be expecting to be given any special dispensations,” Nurse said on the fringes of their 10th anniversary parade and awards ceremony at the St Philip penal institution.
“We understand we are moving into a job where there are inherent risks. Your pay packet suggests such. That is why you are paid like that.”
Nurse first raised the issue of risks when he earlier addressed the parade and awards ceremony in the presence of Acting Minister of Home Affairs Michael Lashley and Permanent Secretary Gail Francis-Vaughn.
He noted that prison officials have to manage inmates who come from all strata of society, having been detained involuntarily, and at varying security levels.
“Their work involves close contact with prisoners, with inherent dangers and stress from the threat of violence and the handling of inmates, some with infectious diseases, psychiatric problems and complicated backgrounds,” the prison boss said, adding that staff must be alert at all times while on duty to make correct and timely decisions.
Nurse said, too, that staff had to deal with a variety of irregularities, unpredictable or even violent situations, including possible disturbances inside the facility, while having to handle obnoxious tasks such as preventing the smuggling of illegal drugs and other contraband.
“The resultant demand on the mental and physical fitness of the staff therefore is high, having to cope with frequent outdoor and indoor patrolling duties as well as long hours of standing throughout the shift period,” the top prison official said.
Although he declined to be specific, Nurse said there were areas in the prison service that needed urgent attention despite “major transformation in its work priorities in response to changing needs and new developments” over the past 15 to 16 years.
“Although there is no denying that there have been many improvements at the prison service and that many have been successful, there are still some areas which require urgent attention and which will engage our active consideration in years to come,” he emphasized.
Therefore, Nurse called on staff and management to remain focused on the core functions of rehabilitation and training.
“We take very seriously our mission to assist in the reduction of crime and in the improvement of public protection. Our focus on rehabilitation seeks to provide programmes which, among other things, address offending behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse, education, vocational skills in addition to more sharply focused and better integrated regimes and sentence planning approaches,” the prison head said.