Crammed prison presents virus challenge

| 19/03/2020 | 25 Comments
Cayman News Service
Prisoners at HMP Northward

(CNS) UPDATED: Given the number of inmates at HMP Northward, the Cayman Islands Prison Service could be facing a challenging time if the corona virus gets a hold at the men’s jail. On Wednesday morning there were a 199 inmates crammed into the overcrowded facility, where social distancing would be all but impossible. However, Prison Director Steven Barrett said measures are being put in place and the first is a ban on visitors.

While attorneys and police will still be able to see inmates, family and friends will be restricted with immediate effect for an initial period of 30 days. Barrett said all routine visits will be suspended while visits by legal representatives and police will be permitted under restricted conditions. Volunteers who attend to provide a range of services will also be barred.

“The health of the prison community, both staff and prisoners, is our uppermost priority at this time,” said Barrett. “An outbreak of COVID-19 within a prison environment could have particularly serious implications. Many of our prisoners present with underlying medical conditions that would increase their vulnerability if exposed to COVID-19. It is imperative, therefore, that we take reasonable and responsible steps to mitigate against this.”

The director said that cancelling visits is necessary but the prison appreciates the importance of maintaining family contacts and a range of initiatives are being considered to facilitate that. “This is a whole community issue and we are taking a whole community approach to dealing with it,” Barrett added.

Aside from limits on those entering the prison, internal restrictions will be introduced to reduce the flow of people, including a revised staff attendance arrangement. Consideration will also be given to whether a reduced schedule of other internal programmes and services will be required.

The prison has already taken steps to enhance the existing levels of personal and environmental hygiene at all their sites. Working closely with partners from the Health Services Authority, isolation areas at both Fairbanks and Northward have been identified and prepared should any suspected case emerge.

CNS submitted questions about whether or not the three Jamaican inmates who were remanded at the prison on Monday after they were picked up by police in a drug interdiction last Thursday had been isolated. We have now received a response to the inquiry.

Officials stated that the men were remanded in custody on 12 March at the Detention Centre where they were screened for any signs of illness and were placed in separate cells.

The RCIPS said it has implemented more robust procedures for intake of all prisoners, including those from outside of the territory. In this case the men were transferred to HMP Northward on 16 March, where they were placed into the Echo Wing and additional admission screening was conducted.

“This area has been specifically designated as the prison’s isolation wing for coronavirus as it is situated away from other buildings,” officials stated. “The men were screened by HSA nurses for signs of symptoms and further questioned over their potential exposure to the virus. Based on advice given by HSA that indicated the men posed no risk to the rest of the prison population, they were later moved to another area of HMP Northward…   The men continue to not show any symptoms,” the prison added

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Category: Crime, Health, health and safety, Prison

Comments (25)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Move minimum risk prisoners and those closing in on sentence served to Alexander Hotel with ankle monitoring, or consider early probationary release.

  2. anonymous says:

    To give awarence if the three Jamaican nationals that have been brought to northward have been isolated…The answer is NO! They were brought into the prison and let loose into the entire prison. XXXX…our caymanians need to step up and fight for our prisoners human right, yes they have done wrongs in the past but theyre are many of them who have paid their dues and deserve a chance to preserve their lives….The prison staff go in and out of the facility as they please, none of the staff are required to be tested or required to practice self isolation…The quickest way COVID-19 will penetrate HMPs gates will be through the same staff that are “claiming” to be trying to prevent contamination.

    I have a son in there, just because he got into a fight doesnt mean he should be subjected to have to sit and possibly get sick or die XXXX…The prison has made vauge remarks about trying to release any prisoner that has 3-6 mo nths left to their Parole eligibility date (PED)…I don’t see if my son has a 5 year sentence and he has done 3 entire years in ttheir, rehabilitating himself, getting the help he needs and bettering himself, that he shouldn’t be allowed to be released… It’s down right disgusting how hard they are making decesion….America has released over 19,000 inmates and Italy also and MOST seriously affected places…Once one case is in there you might as well say its too late….GET THEM OUT NOW!

    • Mel says:

      This is true. They were NOT isolated!!!!!! Please do something NOW!!!!!!!!! Prisoners are not allowed to see any family member anymore, yet 3 Jamaicans off a boat from God knows where can just walk around freely among our family and friends. Do something!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      AGREED! Do something NOW! Why not give this opportunity to release the 3-6 month left prisoners? Especially since the prison is already crammed and doomed inhumane! Mr. Martin Roper & Mr. Steven Barrett- please do the right thing now and let our prisoners go. You are only costing the Cayman Islands Government more if these individuals get sick.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What is sad is government knows of the cramped prison for years yet they spend $9m on consulting fees for the port, we now have 2 police helicopters, road widen, etc, all of which isn’t going anywhere. You see where the government’s priorities are?

    • Anonymous says:

      What about even more money to kill iguanas and the lack of money for the HSA?
      Absolute disgrace.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Please do not release anyone who would pose the slightest risk to the community. Remember every time they are released crime spikes due to some of them who has no plan to amend their ways. Stop visitations, give prison staff the hazmat gear and train them how to interact while protecting the prisoners and themselves. I believe the prisons are the easiest to lockdown because movement can easily be controlled.

  5. Anon says:

    Corona won’t stand a chance in Northward with all those clouds of ganja smoke.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Anyone a foreign national due for release in the next year? Get them on a plane and drop them home. It will be better in the long run.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Responsibility for keeping COVID-19 out of the prison is up to prison staff and new prisoners introduced. If new prisoners are isolated for 14days, then there is only one new moving variable to manage.

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