Caricom's IMPACS as well Caricom states are taking a look ways and means of protecting prison officers, inmates and visitors against the potential spread of the covid19 virus in prisons.
Caricom IMPACS (Implementation Agency for Crime and Security) is the co-ordinating and implementation arm of the region’s multilateral crime and security management architecture, specifically designed to administer a collective response to the crime and security priorities of Caricom member states. Its members comprise 15 Caricom member states and five associate states.
A release on Tuesday from the Planning Ministry warned that an outbreak could have devastating results for prison officers, inmates, visitors and the surrounding community if decisive actions are not taken to prevent introduction of the virus in correctional services and prisons.
In many countries, the release pointed out, in the Caribbean, correctional services, prisons and detention facilities are often overcrowded, and suffer from a lack of resources. While many Caricom states have taken some positive steps to protect the general population, the prison population remains particularly vulnerable for whom social distancing is a challenge, and for many, impossible.
In light of the global covid19 pandemic, over 18 countries in the Caribbean, regional and international organisations and UWI participated in a special meeting via videoconference for Heads of Correctional Services and Prisons on Wednesday 25 March 2020 to prevent and control covid19 in correctional services, prisons and other detention areas.
Two weeks ago a riot broke out at the Remand Yard section of the Golden Grove prisons in Arouca with inmates demanding to be released out of fear of contracting the covid19 virus because of cramped conditions behind the prison walls. It took several hours before the prison's riot squad with the assistance of the police and Defence Force could bring the situation under control.
A meeting of heads of IMPACS also provided an opportunity for heads of correctional services and prisons to be exposed to international best practices, procedures, protocols and support measures for both staff and prisoners; as well as social and administrative measures to reduce the psychological impact of the pandemic on employees, inmates, families and visitors.
Noting that prisoners have tested positive for covid19 in China, France, Iran, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, some Caribbean countries have already taken decisive steps to prevent covid19 in prisons, including early release of harmless prisoners, suspension of all visitations and the screening of staff for coronavirus symptoms before they enter prisons.
The meeting was coordinated by the Caricom IMPACS which partnered with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to support countries to take critical steps to prevent and address a potential disease outbreak.