Sudden death in prison

Sudden death in prison

Minister, correctional services rule out COVID-19 as cause


Saturday, September 26, 2020

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Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security Matthew Samuda has denied suggestions that yesterday's death of an inmate at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, was caused by COVID-19.

Early yesterday reports surfaced that an inmate at the St Catherine-based prison had died suddenly after allegedly exhibiting symptoms of COVID.

But Samuda told the Jamaica Observer that while it is correct that the inmate had died, there is nothing yet to suggest that he had contracted the virus.

“The inmate complained of pain and was taken to hospital, but there was no COVID-19 symptoms,” said Samuda.

“Because we have had COVID cases and we have persons in isolation in some correctional facilities, all of our health workers are dressed in PPE (personal protective equipment), so maybe because our health workers were dressed in PPE when they escorted the inmate to hospital that might have sparked the rumours.

“But there is nothing to suggest at this stage that it was related to COVID. Of course we await the autopsy and other tests but there is nothing to suggest that it was COVID,” added Samuda.

He was supported by Leslie-Ann Brown, director of corporate communications and public relations at the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), who told the Observer that the inmate, who had no previously known ailments, complained of feeling ill and was relocated to the institution's hospital ward for observation.

“His condition worsened and he was transferred to the Spanish Town Hospital. Regrettably, he passed away early this morning (Friday) during treatment,” said Brown.

“It is important to note that the St Catherine facility has no recorded cases of COVID-19 in its inmate population, as such we are awaiting post-mortem report to be able to confirm cause of death,” added Brown.

In the meantime. Samuda disclosed that eight new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston in the past week.

“We did 100 tests over the past week because of the exposure that we have had there with staff and two inmates. We have found eight positive cases — four staff, two from the search team and two inmates. We had 88 negatives and we are still awaiting four results,” noted Samuda.

He said the 100 persons tested were selected based on contact tracing and exposure they had to the initial positives that were seen at the facility.

The minister noted that these numbers are available on the DCS website where a COVID-19 dashboard has been created and updated twice weekly to provide the public with up-to-date information on cases of the virus in correction facilities islandwide.

According to Samuda, since the first positive case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in Jamaica, the DCS has implemented several measures to keep inmates and staff safe.

“I must commend the DCS which acted early and was able to keep COVID-19 out of the institutions for six months after the first case was reported locally. Among the measures we suspended visitations, we introduced temperature tests and masks even before they were being worn by the general population.

“We also placed wash stations and sanitisation stations between every block and every reasonable point that we could place them, in all our facilities. We have done our best to stick to the recommendations made in the WHO (World Health Organization) and PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) documents that have been sent out to correctional institutions island wide. We have also looked at the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations and we do our best, within our resources to match these recommendations,” added Samuda.

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