Correctional Centres record five COVID-19 related deaths since January 2020Sunday, September 26, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister with responsibility for the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), Senator Matthew Samuda, says that five people have died in correctional centres since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic early in 2020.
To date, approximately 300 inmates from the adult correctional institutions, and more than 300 staff members, have been inoculated. Data from the Unit also indicates that since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, 206 inmates and wards and 228 staff members have recovered from the virus.
“The death count remains at five: two inmates and three officers, all from the first wave of the virus,” Senator Samuda told the Senate in the State of the Nation on Friday.
He said that Jamaica remains one of the countries with the least amount of cases in its correctional system within the hemisphere.
“For that, I believe the DCS should be highly commended. The DCS has weathered the virus by functioning as a cohesive unit. The facilities received support from the Ministry of National Security, the Commissioner and other Heads of Departments, and the Superintendents of the facilities heeded the directives from Medical Staff,” he told the Senate.
He said that the the COVID-19 pandemic was the most significant and problematic development to affect the correctional services. But, despite the challenges, the DCS had done well to mitigate the effects admirably, and attributed the institutions relative success as partly due to foresight of the administration.
Samuda said that sensitization to the potential threat began in late January 2020, through sharing of the basic facts that were known about the virus then, with key members of the DCS medical team and representatives from the Correctional Centres.
“Subsequently, a Comprehensive Contingency Plan was prepared with MOHW, CDC, PAHO, and WHO guidelines forming the foundation. DCS Headquarters then carried out an education effort targeting staff and inmates throughout the organization,” he said.
He stated that pamphlets were handed out, posters were erected, and the radio stations in the facilities were used to share information.
“Once Jamaica recorded its first case of COVID-19, DCS implemented measures in an attempt to prevent or delay the virus entering our Correctional Centres. The Medical Director inspected all correctional facilities to identify areas to be used to quarantine and isolate inmates, and to identify items needed for these areas,” Senator Samuda said.
He said that a major steps taken included a COVID-19 Taskforce, which was convened to meet on a weekly basis to coordinate relevant activities. External visitors were prohibited entry. Sanitization and washing stations were strategically erected across the centres, and additional water tanks were installed.
In terms of the management of inmates, Samuda said that they were required to adhere to quarantine orders. New admissions were segregated from the inmate population for two weeks and monitored daily for infection, and any inmate displaying symptoms were immediately isolated and promptly tested.
Other instructions issued included cutting down on the congregation of inmates at the tuck and barber shops.
The DCS Procurement Unit was charged with prioritizing requests for sanitation and PPE material, and staff members of each facility were trained in the proper usage with help from the MOHW staff. Other COVID-19 prevention protocols such as mask wearing and physical distancing were implemented and are enforced daily within the facilities.
He said that moreover, to limit external contact, as much as possible, food and other items from outside DCS were prohibited. A major step forward for digitization was taken, although prompted by Covid, the mention dates for Court sittings at the Horizon Remand Centre were done digitally.