Westgate and Department of Corrections In Covid Turmoil

Word coming to TNN suggesting that not all officers at the Westgate Correctional Facility are being tested for COVID-19 before arriving there for work.

Equally frustrating is the fact that individual sentenced to Westgate or placed on remand could be bringing in the virus as they come over to E1 unit. As a result, a major outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus is believed to be spreading throughout the prison.

Inmates at the facility want the public to hear their cries for survival and refuse to be handled by officers who might be infected with the virus. A fight allegedly broke out between some inmates and prison officers at the facility and five inmates have been placed in segregation and in temporary isolation as a result.

TNN also believes that some inmates have been experiencing backaches, severe headaches, sweating, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. One inmate told TNN that they had not eaten since yesterday.

Inmates are also frustrated because the PIN phone system, which has been unreliable for years, has not worked at all in months and the subcontractor for the system there told them he’s “waiting for parts.” Currently, inmates are receiving their phone calls using staff’s cell phones.

Some staff are very accommodating to inmates during this difficult time, even allowing them to WhatsApp and/or video chat with their loved ones. A well-placed source has indicated that the prison is becoming difficult to manage due to so many staff being out. In order for Westgate to operate somewhat normally, the staff that do come into work have to do double the work and work double the normal hours.

The source believes that the Government in general and specifically the Ministry of National Security have been very quiet when officers and inmates alike voiced their concerns surrounding the facility.

TNN also understands that the Department of Corrections headquarters, located upstairs of the Clocktower Mall in Dockyard, will be moving to the main prison facility F building soon. With a monthly rental fee of close to $40,000, they are looking to save money.

We also understand that their budget has been cut by $2.5 million, as happened during the previous fiscal year. Throughout the current PLP administration, they have received continuous budget cuts, making it more difficult for staff and executives to efficiently run the facility.

It should also be noted that there should be two officers to every inmate if that inmate has to be transported to doctor’s offices or to court. With this latest COVID spike, the movement of inmates, as well as all trials scheduled in Supreme and Magistrate’s Courts, have been temporarily suspended. Officers are under extreme duress as a result of this latest Covid-19 outbreak.

TNN has sent inquiries to the Department of Communication and Information regarding the outbreak at Westgate, we have not received a reply.
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