Prisoners clashed on Tuesday with a joint task force of prison officers, soldiers, officers of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Northern Division officers and fire officers during a riot at the remand yard of the Golden Grove prison.
While Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan said an investigation into what started the riot is underway, prisoners took to Facebook, streaming live during the riot, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus (covid19) and other issues.
“We want to go home!” screamed one prisoner. “We are fed up of this. Things are out of control right now.”
Another said, “Everybody wants to go home right now because of the coronavirus. The prison has no plans in place.”
A third prisoner added, “I am in jail innocent and this coronavirus have me frightened. I want to go home, and if it have to reach to violence, it will reach to violence.
“They have us peeing in a bucket. They are victimising us. They are treating us like insects. So we are taking them today. They are not in control anymore.”
Newsday was told the prisoners were being fed at about 11 am when two prisoners created a disturbance.
A release from the prison service said a prisoner was telling prison officers that several countries are releasing prisoners because of covid19 and this government should do the same.
Two prison officers, one a superintendent and another a senior superintendent, responded to the disturbance and were attacked. The superintendent was dealt several blows to his face resulting in a broken jaw. The senior superintendent was also attacked and was knocked unconscious.
The situation deteriorated from a disturbance to a full-scale riot.
Prisoners threw clothes and debris on the ground. A section of the wall on the southern side of the prison was broken down, and prisoners tried to escape through the hole but were blocked. Parts of the roof were also torn down, and the prisoners climbed up to the roof and set it on fire. Other parts of the division were also engulfed in flames, according to reports.
The joint team of officers responded using non-lethal weapons to quell the riot. Newsday was told that 30 officers from the Guard and Emergency Branch, 12 SORT officers, and 50 prison officers entered the southern wing of the remand yard from the west.
They eventually rounded up the prisoners and detained them.
A subsequent release to the media said the prisoners are now being held at alternative sections as the damage to the remand facility is still being assessed.
Several prisoners were also injured during the melee and were treated by the prison’s medical officer.
Pulchan, in an interview outside the prison, reporters were told that the prison has a covid19 policy.
“Our policy involves saving the lives of both inmates and officers by preventing people with flu-like symptoms from entering our prisons. We have sent prisoners to court this morning. Every prisoner sent to the courts is tested to ensure they do not have any flu-like symptoms, and we test them when they come back.”
Other policies were revealed in another release which included having only one visitor per inmate every week, and having visitors screened via questionnaire and thermal scanner.
Prison Officers Association president Ceron Richards commended the officers and said several of the issues which the prisoners face have to do with the Judiciary which is out of the prisons commissioner’s control.
“The remand has their officers functioning and doing their job right now, and they will get the support they need to continue their duties given the challenges. All we can do in the interest of the nation and the prison is give support to treat with those issues.”