The condition at Her Majesty’s Prisons Dodds is stable, following a COVID-19 outbreak over the last 15 days.
But, it will still be some time before the St Philip penal institution is able to facilitate virtual visits between inmates and their relatives.
Superintendent of Prisons, Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse, gave this assessment, while Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, gave the assurance that contact between inmates and their loved ones would resume as soon as possible.
They were speaking during a press conference at the St Philip penal institution last evening to update the country about the situation at the prison, and reassure families of those incarcerated.
To date, 240 male inmates and 72 members of staff have tested positive for the virus.
Lieutenant Colonel Nurse explained that over the last 15 days, 70 prison officers reported for duty on a rotational shift basis and were able to reimplement a number of systems that were in place before the outbreak.
However, he said there would still be some restrictions and suspensions on certain activities to allow management to focus on what was “absolutely necessary” at this time, to ensure a healthy and safe environment for inmates and staff.
“We will go through and continue to do all the sanitisation of the various locations across the prisons …. The inmates who are here are all settled,” he said.
The Superintendent noted that the inmates were participating in various activities, and it was hoped that the prison could return to a state of normalcy in a short space of time.
This was supported by Abrahams, who added that they were trying to resume, as much as possible, the normal procedures at the prison.
However, he lamented that there was still not enough staff capacity, due to restrictions on the movement of personnel to reintroduce the virtual visits at this time.
Noting that he understood and sympathised with the desire of relatives to communicate with loved ones on the inside, the Minister made it clear that he was not prepared to sacrifice the security of the prison to accommodate what was not an essential service.
“All non-essential service at the prison is out entirely. Officers who are here have to manage every single thing, and it is difficult to police all aspects properly,” he stated.
Minister Abrahams noted that they could continue to get messages delivered to those querying the status of their loved ones in prison. However, he said permission from the inmate would first have to be sought before information relating to his or her condition was released.
“We have to respect the medical confidentiality of anyone who is housed here. We will attempt to answer all questions,” Abrahams indicated.