Antigua Observer:-Superintendent of Prisons, Albert Wade said a lack of concern exercised by the criminal courts to ensure ill people were given medical care before being sent to prison, has exposed inmates and staff to contracting conjunctivitis.
The attempt by prison officials to prevent the outbreak of the highly contagious disease failed after one inmate was admitted to Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) two weeks ago with the highly contagious disease.
In his July 25 report of the state of the prisons, Superintendent Wade wrote to Justice Keith Thom stating that ill people with contagious ailments should not be sent to the Coronation Road penal institution.
“The overall health and safety of the prison population is a major concern of the prison administration. We believe greater care must be exercised by the court in ensuring that persons who are ill be given medical care before [being] sent to our overcrowded facility. If persons are afflicted with a known contagious ailment they should not be sent to prison,” he wrote.
Wade further stated that there are men and women in the prison who made mistakes out of stupidity, ignorance, greed or just bad judgement that did not need to be punished by imprisonment.
“With our chronic overcrowding, more now than ever there is a need for alternative sentencing to be implemented. The cost to taxpayers amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, when these individuals can be punished in smarter, alternative ways,” he added.
The authorities refused to admit a male prisoner sent by the Magistrates’ Court, who was showing symptoms of the contagious disease.
However, another prisoner whose symptoms were not as visible was accepted at HMP. As a consequence, the prisons boss said there is an outbreak in the remand section of the prison.
He said all efforts are being made to contain its spread, but they may not be able to do so successfully because all inmates share certain facilities.
There are 331 people being housed at the prison; 317 men and 14 women, an increase from the 326 who were there at the close of the last Criminal Assizes. Of the prison population, 78 men are currently on remand. A woman and nine men are serving life sentences.
There are two male juveniles on remand and one girl. Additionally, there are 102 prison officers, 58 are men and 44 women, while 10 civilians, the senior executive officer, an executive officer, a nurse, a senior clerk, a junior clerk, a petty officer, an accounts clerk, the driver, a staff cook and a counsellor, make up the prison staff.