The spike in violence across Barbados appears to be a major problem in the state reform institution, HMPrisons at Dodds.
Prison officers at the island’s sole adult penal lockup have broken their silence on what they say is a series of brutal attacks on colleagues by some inmates over the past 13 months.
Treasurer of the Prison Officers’ Association of Barbados Nigel Hall told Barbados TODAY that nearly half dozen officers at HMP Dodds in St Philip had been physically assaulted by inmates since early last year and they are not happy with the responses to their concerns from Prison boss Lt. Col. John Nurse or Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson.
“Basically from January last year, we have had about five officers who have been attacked. One of them has been out from January last year with a broken knee,” Hall revealed, adding that the same officer was told he should be made to pay for the surgery which is now required.
“He has to look for $55,000 to have reconstructive surgery done on his knee,” Hall said.
The executive member disclosed that two of the injured colleagues are still on leave while the others continue to turn up for duty but in discomfort.
“One of the guys that is back at work, is doing 15 years’ [service]; and he was disadvantaged from being appointed. As a result, he can’t take any more time home because he is not going to be paid,” Hall stated.
The prison warden also explained that this same officer was “cuffed” in his face by a prisoner in December 2016 and sustained damage to his eye.
Hall recalled that back then no charges were brought against the inmate, but in this latest incident, he said, the officer reported the matter to the police with a view to having the inmate prosecuted.
“The latest incident…what the officer did after he was assaulted he left work and went directly to District ‘C’ Police Station and filed a complaint, if not the same thing that happened in 2016 would have occurred again. No prosecution would have been brought against the inmate,” he contended.
“We had a female officer who was attacked by a male inmate. She is at work right now with a cane and she wears a boot. Between November [last year] and January [this year] we have had three other officers attacked. One had hot tea thrown in his face and his head was ‘burst’,” Hall told Barbados TODAY.
He said a second officer was assaulted while preparing an inmate to attend court while a third had to get nine stitches to his face in a separate attack.
The association’s treasurer also said that an officer is currently undergoing physiotherapy for an injury he sustained to his back during one of the assaults in the past year.
Hall noted that the Prison Act requires that inmates who assault officers be tried by the Visiting Justice of Prisons.
“That practice has not been undertaken. There is no satisfaction for officers who are attacked. It is more a witchhunt against officers by prison authorities,” he claimed.
He also told Barbados TODAY they are tired of reporting their concerns to the Prison Superintendent and Minister Hinkson to no avail.
With regard to the Minister, Hall said “We would have met with him on January 8, 2019. We would have outlined all of these concerns of the attacks on officers, the increase in violence in the prison, what the Superintendent is doing…and what he is not doing and nothing is being done about it,” he said.
“Something needs to be done. I reach the point now where we need to start putting things in the paper,” he added.
Efforts to speak with prison boss Nurse were unsuccessful, but when Barbados TODAY reached out to Minister Hinkson and questioned him about the attacks, he said he knew nothing about them, but would look into the matter.