JUNE 3, 2020
Prisons are generally considered to be amplifiers in the spread of infectious diseases and pose a great challenge for authorities working to prevent and contain COVID-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies people in prisons as more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population because of the confined conditions in which they live, and proximity with one another – conditions that facilitate transmission of diseases. A sudden eruption of COVID-19 in prisons would put intense pressure on the public health care system in Caribbean countries.
On Monday, 1 June, 2020 the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) with the generous support of the British High Commission, Port of Spain, donated basic sanitation supplies and other related COVID-19 supplies to the Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada Prison Services to help minimise the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19 in prisons.
The supplies included infrared thermometers and cleaning products such as disinfectant, liquid soap, bleach, hand sanitizers and other necessary supplies.
The supplies provided are in accordance with guidelines issued by the WHO for the prevention and control of the pandemic in prisons.
Over the past two weeks CARICOM IMPACS and the the British High Commission, Port of Spain have successfully donated supplies to the prisons and correctional services in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname. During this week, approximately four (4) other CARICOM Members will receive similar assistance.
The Regional Security System (RSS) is a key partner in this collaborative initiative by providing airlift and logistical support for the distribution of supplies to some CARICOM Member States. The French Forces in the Caribbean are providing airlift of supplies to The Bahamas, Belize and Haiti.
In addition to the items provided to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in prisons, on 7 May 2020, CARICOM IMPACS collaborated with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to provide a virtual training session to more than 500 frontline officers on measures to protect themselves in the line of duty. This effort strengthened the capacity of prison staff to better manage their operations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also complements the ongoing efforts by CARICOM IMPACS, the British High Commission and the RSS to provide basic sanitation support to CARICOM Member States.
The donation of these supplies will encourage and assist with the accelerated adoption of WHO guidelines for prisons and other places of detention, as well as help mitigate the spread of the pandemic and reinforce security within CARICOM.
Globally there is the acknowledgement and recognition of the heightened vulnerability of prisoners and prison staff for whom social distancing is a challenge, and for many, impossible. The COVID-19 pandemic compounds an already precarious situation of this vulnerable population group in CARICOM States.
In Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in prisons. However, with an outbreak of COVID-19, the lives of prison administrators, inmates, and the general public will be at risk: potentially placing tremendous strain on the public health system.
CARICOM IMPACS has been at the forefront in advancing COVID-19 related policies in regional prisons to prevent and mitigate an outbreak of the pandemic. Earlier this year, on 25 March 2020, at the CARICOM IMPACS Meeting of Heads of Corrections and Prison Services, proposals were advanced to reduce COVID-19 in Prisons included the early release of non-violent and sick and elderly inmates who pose absolutely no threat to society but only serve to increase the concentration of persons in prisons; increased screening of staff and prisoners; limiting unnecessary in-person visitation so as to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in facilities; enhanced information sharing among prisoners and the development of national prison pandemic plans.
As part of the CARICOM coordinated response to COVID-19, CARICOM IMPACS is contributing to prevent and mitigate the spread of the pandemic in prisons, law enforcement and other security sectors in CARICOM Member States.
On Monday 8 June 2020, Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service will receive ten (10) sanitation tunnels to support the sanitisation of persons coming into and out of the prisons. This is particularly necessary given the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions in the country. CARICOM IMPACS and the British High Commission are supporting this initiative.