Basseterre, St. Kitts, April 03, 2020 (HMP): The management of Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) took early steps to ensure the safety of members of staff and residents from the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people in prisons and other places of detention are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak than the general population because of the confined conditions in which they live together for prolonged periods of time.

It was with this risk factor in mind that Commissioner of Corrections Terrance James and his management team, implemented a number of measures to safeguard the health of prison personnel and residents well in advance of the State of Emergency.

Commissioner of Corrections James said they met with other heads in the Ministry of National Security to strategize a plan. He then briefed his staff on the situation and shared the protocols to follow to prevent themselves and others from getting sick. Hand sanitizers were also made available at various points on the compound.

“We already did a sanitization of the prison cells; a general cleaning and scrub down was done. A doctor from the local task force came into the prison and spoke with the inmates to give some safety tips on what they can do to prevent contamination and prevent the virus from getting into their system,” said the Commissioner.

That doctor was accompanied by representatives from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). They too made presentations to the residents and answered their questions about the virus.

The WHO also warns that prevention of importation of the virus into prisons and other places of detention is an essential element in avoiding or minimizing the occurrence of infection and of serious outbreaks in these settings and beyond. To this end, the decision was made to suspend all visits to residents at HMP as of March 22.

“We have no cases in the prison and we are trying our best to ensure that no one gets sick,” he added. “We have already sent out a notice to the public indicating that the prison would be closed to them. Also, the prisoners will not be going out to do any work at this time.”

During a recent teleconference organized by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) with the heads of prisons in the Caribbean, he learned that similar measures had been taken in other territories.