Tobago prison to be relocated soon

Acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan -
Acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan -

Acting Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan says plans are being made to temporarily relocate the Tobago Convict Prison from behind the Scarborough Police Station to Montessori Drive, Glen Road, Scarborough.

Speaking to Newsday on Friday, Pulchan said the current building will be condemned when the prison is moved.

He said the facility was never built to be a prison but was supposed to be used as a holding bay until the prisoners could be transferred to Trinidad.

The prison, which has been described as inhumane by Prison Officers Association president Ceron Richards, can accommodate 50 inmates and 20 prison officers but has been plagued by overcrowding. Richards also said the foundation is being slowly eroded by the sea.

Pulchan said while plans to construct the new prison are on hold, a temporary situation is being formulated.

He said, "In the meantime, we're looking to retrofit a particular building, a former Ministry of Fisheries building, and we are looking to use that as the temporary holding bay for inmates at this time.

"I have my people there looking at it, and from what my Tobago officers are telling me, the building is quite suitable for accommodation and we will be occupying it. Plans are currently being done at the Ministry of National Security to have the building deemed a prison. So unless legislation is put into place and is declared a prison, we cannot put prisoners there.

"So I think the ministry is doing all this can to get the 'okay' as fast as they can to make this a reality."

Two weeks ago, 14 prisoners and five prison officers tested positive for covid19.

They were moved to the Claxton Bay Correctional Facility for treatment.

The facility can hold 23 patients but he said it can be expanded to accommodate 35. Currently, there are 27 inmates.

He said the Ministry of Health has identified a building in Tobago to house covid-19 positive inmates and those presenting flu-like symptoms, instead of having them transferred to Trinidad. This facility will be announced soon.

Pulchan said the short-term solution is to reduce the number of inmates in the Tobago prison, making the facility less contagious.

"However, the building is designed in a poor condition...And it was a depot to hold inmates temporarily so that they could be transferred to Trinidad. So it wasn't designed as a prison to facilitate rehabilitation.

'"That's why the government has decided that there is the need for a new prison in Tobago. And we did look for locations. When it is budgeted, that work can start very soon.

"But right now I think plans are done, the consultation was done with the Canadian model to build a modern prison in Tobago. So this is what is happening concerning the prison in Tobago."

Addressing the situation after the covid19 outbreak, Pulchan said, "We do have a shortage of staff sometimes but what I realised is there will be some down (quarantined) for 14 days, and then they'll be back up after 14 days, so it's a revolving number.

"Then the Tobago population isn't that much, we are looking at about 35 inmates max. So it is quite possible that we could manage that with the staff and if we need additional staff, that will be made available. We were fortunate enough to get the tests of all the inmates and all the officers, and those who showed the positive signs or symptoms were immediately quarantined."

He said 12 out of 35 prison officers were sent into state quarantine in Tobago.


"Tobago prison to be relocated soon"

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