There is no word yet on when a ban on visits to inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, intended to secure the prison population from the coronavirus, will end, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson has told journalists.
Hinkson said he could not give an exact date since a decision has not been made yet while the authorities discuss the issue.
He said: “It is an evolving issue that we are looking at, but that we will do with the best interest of not only the general population outside, but of the prisoners too.
“As Minister of Home Affairs they are under my ministerial mandate and clearly they are the responsibility of the state and they have to be protected as well.
“The security of our nation’s people is the paramount duty and responsibility of any government. And there has to be certainty in terms of the prison reopening for visits.
“As you know, those who came into prison in the two to three-month period were isolated for 14 days and monitored and kept apart for the first 14 days from the general prison population.”
He said the decision to cut off visitation at the prison was based on taking a cautious approach.
The Minister declared the policy was vindicated by the fact that no one in prison contracted COVID-19, even while some prisons in developed countries experienced virulent outbreaks.
Hinkson said starting last Monday, loved ones were allowed to go and pay money to the inmates’ accounts so that they would have access to phone calls and other miscellaneous items.
“That was an issue of which I am fully aware about, that for the months April and May when clearly we had directives restricting movements and access to fundamental institutions such as the prison and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – that it was a problem,” he said. “We sought to put things in place where you pay through PayPal for the telephone credit etcetera.”
Under the protocols, all prison officers, including the Superintendent, have their temperatures taken and hands sanitized on entry through the prison gates. Thereafter, any officers entering any unit housing, be it a remand unit or one for convicted prisoners, are again tested and sanitized.
All prisoners, both male and female, now entering the prison for first time are interviewed and questioned as to their present health status, and are then screened and tested for temperature, before being separated.
The prohibition on visits affects relatives, friends or anyone outside of the prison’s staff or maintenance team.