Limited staff posing a problem for officials at local correctional facilities
December 20, 2013
Limited staff posing a problem for officials at local correctional facilities

Chief Prison Officer, Brenton Charles says the 128 persons employed as prison offiicials here are insufficient to supervise prisoners at the three local correctional facilities.{{more}}

Charles made the revelation on Tuesday, while responding to a question posed by Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle, at the close of the High Court’s Criminal Assizes.

Bruce-Lyle had asked Charles about the challeneges faced at the prison.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, Charles said the staff has not grown and they have to operate three facilities: Belle Isle, Her Majesty’s Prison in Kingstown and the female prison at Fort Charlotte. Currently, there are a total of 493 inmates at the three facilities. Charles disclosed that the present staff amounts to 128.

“The greatest challenge for us is to supervise inmates while they are on lock. To do some of the projects we want to do, we can’t do that because the staff is limited on both sides. Charles also revealed that officers are “working under tremendous strain”.

“The people at Belle Isle work two very long shifts. One starts at eight in the morning and finishes at six in the evening. The other begins from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m…Those are long hours,” Charles told SEARCHLIGHT.

According to Charles, the workers have raised complaints about the situation, which he said has been looked into.

However, Charles said with the long shifts, they are doing the best that they can.

He is of the view that more emphasis should be placed on completing the facility at Belle Isle, and proposes that the prisoners at all three facilities be housed at one location.

“You could have acccess to all your staff and to carry out the programmes and whatever projects we want to do under one facility. We could better assign staff,” he remarked.

In Kingstown, Charles said they are vulnerable, since Her Majesty’s Prison is located in the heart of the city.

He complained that illegal substances are still being thrown over the walls for prisoners.

“We [are] having this problem every single day. We never know what could come over there. Anything can come in the prison and pose a threat to any member of staff or any inmate and that is not healthy for security,” Charles said.

In addition to that, Charles said the large number of cellular phones that continue to make their way into facility is worrying.

“It is very prevalent, you know. We have to be so careful here.”

Charles also spoke about the challenges faced when remand prisoners, who have been langushing in prison for an extended period, become frustrated.

“You have people who have been here nine years waiting for trial. That’s not good. We face some problems with these people because they become frustrated and we have to try find answers for them and keep them going steady,” he indicated.

Charles said most of the prisoners do not react violently because of their frustrations, but become depressed.(KW)