Prison authorities exploring idea of conducting e-visits
Despite suspended physical visits amidst COVID-19, prison authorities are exploring the option of conducting visits via social media platforms, in an effort to ensure that inmates stay connected with relatives.
This assurance came from the Assistant Superintendent of Prisons (ASP) Julian Clarke last Wednesday, April 8, at the High Court.
The ASP was in the process of bringing the court, and Justices Brian Cottle and Angelica Teelucksingh (Ag) up to speed on what measures are being taken at the prisons to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We understand the seriousness of this virus, and the havoc that it can cause within the prison institution, and so we have put in place a number of measures,” said Clarke, who promised to tell the whole truth when he entered the witness box.
The senior officer noted that the prisons — Her Majesty’s Prison, and the Belle Isle Facility, have both set up hand washing stations, and screening is done of all visitors/officers coming into the facilities through a questioning process and the taking of their temperature.
Further, “We established a quarantining area at Belle Isle, as well as a special cell to house new admissions to the both facilities,” Clarke disclosed.
They do sensitizing sessions with the inmates, and also receive help from the Ministry of Health in this regard.
“We have suspended all outside work by the inmates, so the inmates would not be allowed to go and do outside work until further notice,” the ASP revealed.
Church services at the prison, made possible by the individuals from the Christian Fellowship who come to the prison, have also been suspended.
Rehabilitation has also taken a hit, as all programs which require persons from the outside to come into the prison have been suspended.
“We also suspend all visits until further notice, but what we are trying to do is we are exploring the idea of conducting visits via a social media platform to ensure that inmates stay connected with relatives during this time,” Clarke noted.
The prisons are also “encouraging” social distancing among staff by restructuring shifts to limit the number of officers working in one place.
Transportation has been provided to the workers, Clarke noted, so that they do not have to take public transportation.
Additionally, Clarke indicated that they try their best to sanitize their “work spaces and vehicles”, and have issued the ‘frontline’ workers with masks and gloves.
However, the ASP admitted that challenges remain.
“For example it is very difficult to practice social distancing among inmates in an overcrowded environment, and we are unable to provide all inmates and officers with masks to aid in their own protection,” as there seems to be a shortage of them, Clarke disclosed.