As the Government of Grenada increases safety measures to curb the local spread of the global pandemic COVID-19, officers attached to the island’s main penitentiary Her Majesty’s Prison are concerned that not enough is being done to protect staff and inmates alike if there is an outbreak at the facility.
Speaking to our news desk earlier this week as an anonymous source for obvious reasons, one prison officer said while he is committed to his job, he is becoming increasingly concerned that the authorities at the prison are not doing enough for human safety nor are they listening to suggestions and bits of advice given to them by workers who are placed at the forefront of daily activities at the prison.
According to the officer, while the call for social distancing is being seen as a major factor in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, such practice is not in effect in the prison that far exceeds its comfort population.
He added that cells built for two prisoners are forced to accommodate five and eight prisoners and so social distancing is impossible at the prison. He added that while one understands the gravity of the situation, the greater effort can be made on the part of those in authority to improve living conditions at the prison.
The officer noted that a team of officers suggested to management that imitates with underlying medical conditions be sent home to their relatives to ease congestion and that the high-security cells, which now house one inmate be joined to accommodate three inmates, thus freeing up the high populated areas but that he said were thrown out the window.
Fully aware of the rules governing the prison and the protocols attached, the officer said these are critical times that call for critical measures and therefore while the COVID-19 infection is yet to reach the prison every effort should be made to mitigate against serious loss of life if the prison is hit by the virus. At the moment he said workers are not satisfied that management is looking in that direction, protecting life seems not to be part of their agenda.
The officer added that while some employees are making the sacrifice of remaining on the job for fear of transporting the virus, he said management continues to put their lives at risk by overloading the prison transports, ignoring the call by government for social distancing. The prison bus he said drives on to the facility filled carrying workers and the same is true for the other vehicles.
To add assault to injury the officer said some of the workers who choose to remain on the job operating a two-shift system, have no arrangement made for them on the compound after their shift is over. Officers he said are made to cluster in small rooms for sleeping purposes. He added that while some officers use their vehicles for sleeping understanding what is at stake, the situation he said is far from what is acceptable at this time.
Earlier, the prison authority made it known that several safety measures were put in place to guard against a COVID-19 spread at the prison. Among those measures were minimizing the number of inmates sent to prison from the various courts, suspending all visits until further notice, introducing mandatory temperature checks for everyone entering the prison and encouraging proper hygiene for inmates and staff at the facility.
The officer’s concern is that based on what presently exists any outbreak of COVID-19 at the prison would be catastrophic given the conditions.