COVID-19 prison cluster is becoming a crisis

Letters to the Editor

COVID-19 prison cluster is becoming a crisis

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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Dear Editor,

tand Up for Jamaica (SUFJ) has been raising alarm about the poor way in which the COVID-19 prison cluster is being managed. The number of cases within correctional facilities are increasing steadily and this fact is being lost in the overall numbers that are reported on each day.

The situation of the spread of the novel coronavirus within correctional facilities is accelerating and, still, no decisive action is being taken to control the spread. Until now, no action has been taken to prevent what is today a serious challenge. Inmates pay with their fear and loneliness.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has now said that nine more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the ward population at the South Camp Juvenile Correctional Centre; 18 staff members are also on home quarantine.

It has become clear that the steps that have been taken to increase adherence to the COVID-19 protocols of the Ministry of Health and Wellness are not enough to stem the rise in cases.

It is against this back drop that Stand Up for Jamaica reiterates its calls for immediate steps to be taken to reduce the population in police lock-ups, remand centres, and correctional centres by releasing from detention anyone that fits the Ministry of Health and Wellness's criteria for at risk groups (over 60 years old, weakened immune system, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, people with chronic illnesses including heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease and diabetes).

Urgent action is specifically required towards children detained in lock-ups, remand centres and correctional centres for being deemed uncontrollable. Those minors did not commit a crime and their isolation from their families is cruel and leads to depression and aggressive behaviour.

We should also release anyone being held on remand for inability to pay cash bail, incarcerated with a release date in 2020, incarcerated for failure to pay fines, mentally ill detained according to Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) report.

One more press release and one more appeal to mercy and to action taking. Are we going to hear any answer at this time?

Maria Carla Gullotta

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