A promise made to improve prison conditions

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Prison officials yesterday, reportedly pledged to work towards improving inhumane conditions, over which dozens of aggrieved prisoners protested on Saturday.

Well-placed sources said Prison Superintendent Percy Adams and four other officials had discussions with six inmates who spoke on behalf of the 360 plus prison population.

The main issues raised and to be immediately addressed include, lack of timely access to healthcare, poor nutrition, unsanitary conditions and non-delivery of timely disciplinary hearings for inmates who have committed infractions.

“The prison will be cleaned and something will be put in place to ensure they get access to proper care and better food. Nothing can really be done immediately about the overcrowding and heat, but the toilet pails can be emptied more frequently to get rid of the stench,” a well-placed source reported.

Currently, inmates are forced to share one pail placed in each cell to relieve themselves and it is reportedly emptied once a day.

The cells in the remand section are overcrowded with about eight to 13 inmates in some instances, although they were designed to house about four.

The source further indicated that inmates who break prison rules are sometimes kept on cell lockdown for months awaiting a hearing.

Superintendent Adams has reportedly given instructions to a senior officer to ensure inmates who commit infractions are allowed to see him (Adams) immediately or as early as possible.

Efforts to reach the superintendent were unsuccessful as OBSERVER media was informed that the prison head was in a meeting.  No one else was able to discuss the outcome of Adams’ meeting with the inmates, which took place earlier in the day.

Also, efforts to reach National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort were futile.

Adams, deputy in charge at the prison Colonel Glynne Dunnah, the prison matron, the chief officer and a junior prison officer were present at Monday’s meeting which lasted about two hours.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)