Acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan said while 250 prison officers have been placed in self-quarantine during the covid19 pandemic, their colleagues have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the efficient function of all prison facilities.
Speaking with Newsday on Monday, Pulchan said the loss of manpower has not significantly affected operations at prisons as some officers have volunteered to work extra hours in the absence of their colleagues in self-quarantine.
"Prisons officers are very adaptable human beings in times of crisis. This is when they shine the most. Right now I have people doubling up on their workloads, people are coming back to make sure things are getting done. There are people staying back after working hours to ensure the job is getting done so I am receiving full cooperation from all of my officers who are working very hard to pick up the slack that was left by the absence of the officers in quarantine."
Pulchan said he understood this was not a long-term solution, but noted that the isolation period for suspected covid19 cases was only 14 days and anticipated officers to return to work if they tested negative.
Responding to concerns from the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) over the failure of the State to release non-violent offenders as part of measures to avoid overcrowding behind bars, Pulchan said he fulfilled his part of the process and was awaiting further instructions from the courts.
"It is totally out of my hands for now. Everything they asked for I have submitted. All that was asked of me I have done it, however I have not received any instructions or documentation from the courts to release anyone for covid19."
In a media release on Saturday, the CCHR noted that prisons were "breeding grounds" for disease because of overcrowding, poor ventilation, frequent prisoner transfers and poor nutrition.
Pulchan said the prison service has been working at full capacity to ensure that both inmates and prison officers were protected against infection, citing frequent sanitising of prisons.
"There is a quarantine facility at the Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre where we have inmates there being quarantined for 14 days before they can be sent to the other stations.
"We have constant sanitisation and have produced almost 4000 masks and distributed to inmates throughout the prison, so the prison service is doing all it possibly can to combat this illness."
Newsday spoke with Chief Fire Officer Marlon Smith who said while he could not confirm the exact number of fire officers in self-quarantine as of Monday. He said the absence of these officers have not affected the operations of the fire service as different shifts have stepped up to ensure effective functioning of fire stations.
Earlier in September it was reported that 44 recruits at the Police Training Academy, St James, tested positive for the virus.