For the time being Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds won’t be releasing or taking in any new inmates, Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams said on Friday.
He told reporters that over 20 inmates scheduled to be released from prison this month will have to wait longer because of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the prison.
The courts are not denying bail except on some serious charges where the accused are being remanded to St Ann’s Fort at the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) instead, he said.
Superintendent of Prisons Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse confirmed that 26 people were due to be released in January.
He said: “For the month of January there are about 26 and we are in the process of looking at how that can be achieved and achieved safely.
“Of course, you will appreciate that we will have some medical input into that to make sure that we are doing all of the things correctly so that should start rolling out fairly shortly.
“Fortunately, there are not very many numbers but as the month unfolds you will see it picking up a little bit.”
Abrahams said every effort was being made to ensure that prisoners who had served their time were released in a timely manner.
He said while none had been released as yet since the outbreak, all that was required was for an inmate to return two negative COVID-19 tests and they would be allowed to leave the facility.
The home affairs minister said: “We do not want to keep a person in prison a day or a second longer than they have to be here. If you have served your sentence and you have done your time it is our priority to try and get you out so that you can reunite with your family.
“We are under a period of no one in, no one out, that was ordered by the Chief Medical Officer. In some sense that has been lifted slightly so we are putting arrangements in place to separate those who are due for release on a rolling 28-day period and once we can get them to have two negative tests in that point of time so we are satisfied they are not a danger to themselves or they won’t pose a risk to anybody outside, then they are free to go. From the time you have been separated and you get your second test, you are free to go.”
“We are not on any scheme as has been suggested in some areas to try to keep people here and deprive people of their rights.
“Quite frankly, the more people who are due for release and who can be released out of the prison is the less logistically that we have to deal with.
‘We want to be able to accommodate those who have served their time to let them go home so that we can get on with focusing on those who have to be here and for whom release at this point in time is not an option.”
Abrahams said because of the outbreak at the prison, there would be no unnecessary remands there.
He praised magistrates for understanding the situation and for exercising their discretion.
Two men who had recently been charged with murder had been remanded to St Ann’s Fort, the minister noted.
But he said he did not know the capacity of the prison at the BDF headquarters. ([email protected])