The top brass of the prison service and their boss, the home affairs minister, have flatly denied allegations of unsanitary conditions at HMP Dodds or unfair treatment of inmates.
Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams, Superintendent of Prisons Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse and acting Assistant Superintendent Major Cedric Proverbs all dismissed the “rumours” during a press conference at the prison Friday afternoon.
Since an outbreak of COVID-19 was confirmed at the start of the year, several social media posts have surfaced with prison officers and inmates alike complaining about conditions at the prison.
Among those complaints was that it was not being properly sanitized. Inmates charged they were not being provided with adequate masks or hand sanitizers.
But at the start of the news conference, Abrahams rushed to dismiss the charges.
“A lot of rumours have been swirling,” he said. “We’ve spent more time over the last couple days dealing with fake news and rumours about what is happening in the prison and it is actually taking away from our ability to concentrate on the things that we actually need to do here.
Lt. Col. Nurse, who was back on the job following his recent release from quarantine, maintained that the prison was being continually sanitized.
He said: “What I can say to you in that respect is that we have a team that from as early as March has been going through and sanitizing all of the buildings, all of the work areas and living spaces on a daily basis. That was ramped up most certainly after information about the presence of COVID-19, so that was increased significantly.
“I can say to you that as recently as this week we had Mint Condition [cleaning firm] to do a full industrial clean. We’ve also ramped up our operations, we’ve purchased additional equipment to ensure we are on top of all of the cleansing and sanitization that we need to do.”
The prison boss also assured that there had been no instances of unrest at HMP Dodds since the outbreak.
Major Proverbs was seconded from the BDF to assume control of the prison while Nurse was in quarantine for the last 15 days.
He disputed reports that inmates had not received masks during the outbreak.
Proverbs insisted: “I believe that we have the accounts that would testify to the number of masks that were issued from even before I came here to at present. I think we’ve issued over 2,000 masks to the prisoners during this period and we only have 790, so if we do a quick calculation more than two masks per prison were issued, so that is a stranger to the truth.”
Abrahams contended that as much as possible was being done to address the needs of staff and prisoners along with concerned family members.
The minister said all 790 inmates had been afforded phone calls to speak to family during the ordeal.
Virtual visits would remain discontinued with the health and safety of inmates and staff being Government’s main focus, he said. (RB)