Golden grove

The entrance to the Golden Grove Prison, Arouca

The Prison Officers' Association of Trinidad and Tobago has expressed concern over the increasing numbers of Covid-19 positive cases in the nation’s prisons.

The Association is now calling on the Ministry of Health to make provisions for all inmates in the prison system to be tested.

In a statement on Monday, the Association noted that there was an “exponential” increase in positive cases at the prisons although the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service to the initiative to implement protocols in the prison system in the early months of the pandemic.

The Association stated that prison service was not adequately funded and prison officers were not equipped with sufficient personal protective equipment to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.

It stated, “The Ministry of Health MUST make provisions for All inmates to be tested in batches of 200 every other day until we have a clear picture of where clusters exist and the pattern of infection in our nations Prisons.”

The Association is claiming that medical provisions for prison officers were removed from their contracts.

“Where is the focused attention to ensure the Prison Service receives the necessary funding? Is this even a consideration by this Government?” it stated.

The Association also called out Attorney General Faris Al Rawi on the failures of the judicial system. “We must also rebuke the judiciary for their failings because are the individuals on remand, especially those who would want to access bail or have their matters completed simply to sit until..... "whenever"?”

It stated the prison officers continued to work in challenging conditions which had increased “10 fold” due to the pandemic.

To date, the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service has recorded a total 255 positive cases which includes persons at in-house step down areas as well as those who have fully recovered.

On Sunday, Commissioner of Prisons (Ag), Mr. Dennis Pulchan, stated that an additional 108 prisoners tested positive.

In a statement, Pulchan said this was discovered after a team of medical personnel attached to the County Medical Office of Health, St. George, East, conducted a swabbing exercise on certain inmates at the Golden Grove Prison on Friday.

Pulchan said he was concerned for both the officers and inmates under his charge.

The release stated, “The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service advises that assessment is ongoing on the persons who have recently returned the positive results. Upon completion, they would be relocated to an in-house Covid-19 treatment centre, and relatives will be contacted by Prison Welfare Officers.”

Pulchan said safety measures continue to be enforced with temperature checks and oxygen saturation levels twice daily for early detection, increased sanitization frequencies, mandatory wearing of masks/face shields, and limited movement/transfers of prisoners.

He stated that with approximately 3800 persons in the prison system, over 600 persons have already been tested. “In an effort to determine status to aid in decision-making, all prisoners continue to be observed, monitored and charted under the guidance of the experts of at the Ministry of Health,” he stated.