Full prison struggles with high COVID case load

| 04/11/2021 | 42 Comments

(CNS): With at least nine security officers isolating at home and around 20 inmates now infected with COVID-19, the prison service is struggling with quarantine issues inside HMP Northward. Prison Director Steve Barrett has denied that inmates who have tested positive are being housed in the same cells as those who are virus-free and said that, despite the difficulties, they are doing their best to implement the protocols and isolate prisoners. But he admitted that the situation is challenging.

CNS has spoken to inmates and friends and family of those who are currently incarcerated in the men’s jail who say infected inmates are being housed just feet from those not infected, allowing the virus to spread unchecked.

Barrett explained that, with no means of isolating prisoners individually, the prison is using a cohorting system, where positive inmates will isolate together in a residential area set aside for that purpose. But dedicating rooms for cohorting purposes still places a strain on a prison that is full to capacity.

“We are taking our current situation extremely seriously, just as we have from the time that the pandemic was first declared,” Barrett told CNS. “All staff entering our prisons at Northward and Fairbanks are required to complete a lateral flow test before being admitted to the facilities.”

But there are particular issues related to managing any communicable disease inside closed establishments like prisons, he noted.

“The close proximity within which people work and live is extremely challenging,” he said. “For example, the outbreak we are now experiencing required us to plan and arrange for multiple internal moves whilst Public Health partners were screening all of those in custody.

“And, of course, not everyone will be at the same point in the gestation period so not everyone will test positive at the same time. Nonetheless, we do have procedures in place for managing COVID-19 positive cases and those have been implemented.”

Barrett said that the prison is working in partnership with medical practitioners while at the same time maintaining the security and safety protocols.

“We cannot tell people to isolate at home and therefore need to do the best we can within the limitations of our estate,” the director said. “Where an individual person is found to be positive, he or she will be isolated until found to be negative and subsequently cleared for release from isolation by healthcare staff.

“However, where a number of people return positive test results and isolating into single occupancy rooms is not possible, we initiate the ‘cohorting’.

“This is a fairly standard response in prisons across the world. Affected individuals will be monitored by our nursing staff and managed in accordance with Public Health advice. Those prisoners who have particular underlying health conditions that make them a higher risk will be monitored more closely by nursing staff,” he said.

Prisoners and their families have told CNS that with just one nurse at the jail, getting medical attention has proved challenging for those inmates who are unwell or who have other health problems.

The prison is also battling with the problem of officers who have tested positive and therefore cannot come to work. However, Barrett said that the prison is not yet at breaking point with the current number of guards out.

“Just as is the case for many workplaces, it is a concern when we lose staff to the COVID-19 infection,” Barrett said. “We do, however, have a continuity of operations plan in place which allows us to constrict our regimes so that staff can be deployed to where they are most needed. We are not yet at the point where we cannot manage or safely dispense our core business.”

Given that the coronavirus community transmission is escalating across the Cayman Islands, he said the current outbreak at HMP Northward was an inevitability. “We are committed to doing our bit to protect everyone and to ensure that, as far as possible, we, along with our civil service colleagues, act responsibly,” he said.

“The priority for us now is to remain calm, follow Public Health advice, and focus on how we can learn to live with COVID-19. This is for everyone, not just our prisons, our reality now,” Barrett added.

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Category: Crime, Health, Medical, Prison

Comments (42)

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  1. Mr Blue Sky says:

    From the very onset of COVID Mr. Barrett has been proactive in the care of all. He has put in place systems and processes which, despite their strengths, the Virus has by passed,

    If the people of Cayman are so incensed about the system in which the prisoners are incarcerated, do something about it. The outgoing director wanted to revitalize a system in need.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Kenneth Bryan should take this opportunity to train people to work in the hotel sector when we reopen our borders later this month. He can call a two week stint helping out at Northward “how to deal with unruly guests”.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Surely the prison staff and wardens have to be vaccinated?

  4. Anonymous says:

    cig/civil service had one simple job…keep covid out of one prison.
    another world class failure…cheers.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Stay calm…..remember we are ready?? This is truly a pandemic, number of positives increasing, hospitalizations increasing, people’s mental state diminishing,

  6. Anonymous says:

    When was the last time the Director was inside the prison?? Talking points are nothing more than a grandiose version of lip service. Put up or shut up.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Can we bring back the gallows to thin the herd of prisoners who are beyond rehab? I can think of a few.


    Prisoners are not housed in the same cells if one is positive and one negative. they are not so stupid to do that.

    there is more than one nurse also. i have seen 5 go in there at a time to test on a regular basis and administer the injection which many refuse.

    Many in there are for petty crimes but the director cannot release them hat is a point for the judges and lawyers to make. he is trying trust me.

    the prison has been laid bare by this pandemic. shame on every government since 1995 at least. not one accommodation block has been built.

    please try and understand prison life it’s not like normal social life in Cayman it is cramped and in desperate need of upgrades in all areas.

    the director and his team of managers, supervisors and officers should be congratulated for the work they are doing.


  9. Anonymous says:

    How many inmates are currently incarcerated for petty ganja possession and consumption? Legalise and you might have more space in the prison for real and serious crimes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Zero in jail for a single spliff, despite the popular folklore.

    • Anonymous says:

      Legacies it and you won’t have Anyone show up for work.

    • Anonymous says:

      We can’t do that. It’ll hurt the liquor sales on our tiny little pirate Island…

      Said it already, a big problem in Cayman is drunk driving, anyone who is of legal age can purchase any amount of alcohol without restrictions but god forbid the Caymanian that wants to have a spliff.

      You cannot deny draconian prohibition laws are currently contributing to the mess the northward prison is seeing during this pandemic, all because some dinosaurs have a problem with a natural plant.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Mandate all prisoners get vaccinated immediately. Even with just the first jab it gives some protection. Then in 3 weeks, they get the next jab. In the US, there was no choice at most prisons. All were vaccinated. Anyone with 6 months or less, send them home with an ankle bracelet.
    Next will be the nursing homes if all are not vaccinated there.

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe first jab of Phizer offers 57% effectiveness. That isn’t bad when you are a sitting duck in a prison. It should be a priority for public health to test and jab asap before that situation grows out of control.

    • Anonymous says:

      The ones being sent home should be vaccinated, too. Keep families and community safe and they will be entering the workforce. It is a win-win all around.

  11. Anonymous says:

    But they said they are ready.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It’s no problem. CITA confirmed we were reopening safely, and the prison is “not yet” at breaking point. I feel so reassured. How about one of the hotels accept some of these persons affected as guests?

  13. Anonymous says:

    So prison conditions are very similar to how many lower income people live in the Cayman Islands. That is cramped and sub-standard with difficulty maintaining physical distance.

    What % of the prison service was vaxed again? I seem to remember it being below the national average when it was disclosed a while back.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Ah life, full of choices.

    Call in the regiment. They’re more likely to be vaccinated.

    • Anonymous says:

      The prison guards and all inmates should have been top priority to be vaccinated and it should have been mandatory.

  15. Anonymous says:

    If there are no to isolate and a full prison why not start to release inmates who have minor crimes and have little time left, give them kind of conditions like curfew or something to help free up the system. It’s just going get worst where people will be hospitalized.

  16. Anonymous says:

    and cig will not mandate vaccine for prison officers and prisoners????
    pure wonderland madness.
    prison situation on its own runs the risk of overwhelming our health service…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hmmmm? One has to wonder….

    …have visitors from outside been limited or more restricted since the community covid outbreak?

    …were staff tested and protocols in place to ensure that covid was NOT BROUGHT INTO Northward Prison?

    …..are all staff vaccinated?

    Oh, I bet I know the answer to that one!! What, no Govt. WP holders have to have vaccine?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well, what do they expect when government won’t drop their excessive isolation protocols! People should not have to isolate if not tested positive!

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. The hell with globally recognized and proven isolation! Praise the Reopen Cabal!!!

  19. Anonymous says:

    The prison system is like the us, central America and Asia.
    Just throw a bunch of people in a room .
    I have seen this prison inside and it is a disgrace.

    One or two inmates per cell is what it should be and sent small crime home.

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