by Anesta Henry
The Minister of Home Affairs has flatly denied there’s unrest at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds which is now on lockdown against the spread of the coronavirus, as scores of staff and inmates tested positive for the virus.
Wilfred Abrahams told journalists: “I keep getting calls and questions as to if there is unrest at the prison. There is no unrest at the prison. The situation at the prison is under control. There have been no reported incidents at the prison that should cause concern to anyone.
“I just want to make that very clear because just before I came I got a message from a reporter asking me about that. The situation at the prison and the integrity of Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds is entirely under control.”
Abrahams said the situation at the prison “remains fluid”, noting that officers, staff, and inmates at HMP Dodds have continued to work together to manage the outbreak of COVID-19 at the prison where 49 members of staff and 121 inmates have tested positive for the virus, including one female inmate.
He disclosed that only essential services are being provided at the St Philip penal facility such that meals for inmates are being prepared at the School Meals Department while the meals for staff is being prepared at the Barbados
Defence Force (BDF).
Abrahams said there is more frequent washing of laundry, and while the medical staff has been reduced, those who tested positive have been receiving treatment. He disclosed that a round of second testing at the prison was scheduled
to begin on Tuesday.
The minister said security operations continue at the prison with a combined effort of prison staff, and members of BDF and the police whom he thanked for stepping up to assist in managing the staff complement at the prison where the shift rotation is being managed.
He said: “We do not have comfortable accommodation arrangements because it was never built to accommodate that. We have constructed tents and done other emergency procedures to make it as liveable as possible and we are doing the best we can in the situation. It is not comfortable living, but this is not a comfortable situation and we are doing the best as we can to maintain some degree of normalcy at the prison.
The top five leaders at the prison are not at the site because they are in quarantine or isolation, he said. The control of the prison has been passed on to Major Cedric Proverbs who has been seconded from the army to the prison in the position of Assistant Superintendent of Prisons.
Abrahams also indicated that while there have been complaints about lack of internet connectivity at the Dodds, he pointed out that the prison is a secured facility where communication in and out must be closely monitored.
He said relatives are only allowed to contact inmates in and out of the prison for essential reasons.
When asked if there could have been a breach in the prison’s internal protocols that led to over 100 people being tested positive for COVID-19, Abrahams said investigations into those circumstances have not yet started, since the current focus is to stabilize the situation, ensuring that everyone is tested and receive the medical attention needed.
“After that, we will do full investigations into how the spread got to the point that it got to,” he told reporters. “But, being quite frank with you that has not been our priority right now. I mean it is challenging trying to manage that situation.
“A prison is a bubbling pot effectively, we are trying to keep that lid on, we are trying to keep everybody calm, we trying to provide the best care that we can for the persons who are within our care and custody and our control and we are also trying to motivate the prison officers who are there and who are having a difficult time.
“We even had psychological counselling for some prison officers because of the uncertainty of the situation. So trying to point a finger and find out how exactly it happened will come after. Right now our first priority is to get through this.”