Inmates at Dodds Prison will be able to see visitors again, come December 1, although only virtually.
Word of this came today from Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams, as he addressed Parliament on a supplementary to have maintenance work done at the St Philip penal institution.
Restrictions on visits were put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic and lawyers and family members of inmates recently agitated for a review of those restrictions.
Minister Abrahams said all who need access to prisoners should be able to do so virtually, adding that the inmates have a right to meet with their attorneys, see their families and have sessions with faith-based leaders.
“Having had the discussion with our Superintendent of Prisons yesterday, we have been awaiting donations of large screen TVs and more video electronic systems so that we can have, for example, a church with multiple participants in it or counselling sessions or teaching sessions.”
“All of that infrastructure is almost in place and it is expected that by the December 1, we will be able to resume interactions with the faith-based organisations, with the social services; attorneys can have more access to their clients and their families will be able to interact and see them a lot easier.”
Abrahams explained that, at present, the prison was restricted by the number of ports to facilitate the virtual set up.
“There are limited opportunities because of the limited IT resources that are at the prison. There should be significantly more capacity so that persons can avail themselves of what is their right. You have a right to see your family. You have a right to communicate with your attorney. You have a right to practise your faith in prison.”
The Home Affairs Minister assured that the matter was being treated as a priority at the prison.
He explained the reason behind the initial visiting restrictions.
“Because of COVID and prison being a close area, you have to be very careful what goes into prison. Within the prison community, infections and diseases will spread like wildfire, so it was deemed necessary at the beginning of COVID to severely restrict certain things for the protection of those who are in our custody,” Abrahams said.