First set of COVID19 supplies destined to Member States being loaded on to RSS Aircraft. (Image: CARICOM IMPACS)

On Monday 8 June 2020, the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service will receive ten sanitation tunnels to support the sanitisation of persons coming into and out of the prisons.

This donation will be in addition to another one provided on Monday this week, which included infrared thermometers and cleaning products such as disinfectant, liquid soap, bleach, hand sanitizers and other necessary supplies, in accordance with guidelines issued by the WHO for the prevention and control of the pandemic in prisons.

According to a news release from CARICOM IMPACS—the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security—the donation of basic sanitation supplies and other related COVID-19 supplies was done with the support of the British High Commission in Port of Spain, for Prison Services in both Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

CARICOM IMPACS says this is to help minimise the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19 in prisons in both countries, given the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions.

Over the past two weeks, CARICOM IMPACS and the British High Commission in Port of Spain have successfully donated supplies to the prisons and correctional services in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.

CARICOM IMPACTS reports that during this week, approximately four other CARICOM Members will receive similar assistance, all as part of the CARICOM coordinated response to COVID-19, to prevent and mitigate the spread of the pandemic in prisons, law enforcement and other security sectors in CARICOM Member States.

The regional security body notes that in Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in prisons. However, with an outbreak of COVID-19, the lives of prison administrators, inmates, and the general public will be at risk: potentially placing tremendous strain on the public health system. It is a scenario which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned countries to prepare against, as prisons are generally considered to be amplifiers in the spread of infectious diseases and pose a great challenge for authorities working to prevent and contain COVID-19.

The release adds that the Regional Security System (RSS) is a key partner in this collaborative initiative by providing airlift and logistical support for the distribution of supplies to some CARICOM Member States. Also, the French Forces in the Caribbean are providing airlift of supplies to The Bahamas, Belize and Haiti.

Back in May this year, CARICOM IMPACS collaborated with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to provide a virtual training session to more than 500 frontline officers on measures to protect themselves in the line of duty. This effort strengthened the capacity of prison staff to better manage their operations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also complements the ongoing efforts by CARICOM IMPACS, the British High Commission and the RSS to provide basic sanitation support to CARICOM Member States.

Earlier this year, on 25 March 2020, at the CARICOM IMPACS Meeting of Heads of Corrections and Prison Services, proposals were advanced to reduce COVID-19 in Prisons included:

–  The early release of non-violent and sick and elderly inmates who pose absolutely no threat to society but only serve to increase the concentration of persons in prisons;

–  Increased screening of staff and prisoners;

–  Limiting unnecessary in-person visitation so as to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in facilities;

–  Enhanced information sharing among prisoners; and

–  The development of national prison pandemic plans.