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Prison Superintendent laments conditions at the prison

Dominica’s acting Prison Superintendent Jeffery Edmond has lamented the inadequacy of staff, the lack of insurance for Prison Officers, the high number of inmates on remand (119), and the amount of mentally ill inmates at the prison (56) as some of the major challenges facing the islands lone penal facility.

Edmond’s comments were made in answer to questions posed by Director of Public Prosecutions Sherma Dalrymple at the closing of the Criminal Session of the High Court when he delivered the “Jail delivery for March 13, 2024.”

As of March 13, 2024, the prison population stood at 260 inmates comprising 257 males and three females. 101 of the males came from the Magistrate’s Court, one female from the Magistrate’s, 31 males from the High Court, and 2 females from the High Court, with 119 males on remand and 6 males for trial.

There are no juveniles at the prison however, 25 of the inmates are foreign nationals (11 Venezuelan, 4 St. Lucian, 3 from St. Martin, 2 Haitians, 1 from Trinidad, 2 from the USA, 1 Nigerian, and 1 from Guadeloupe).

“Staffing for our most recent entrants to the Dominica Prison Service (DFS) has begun with eleven (11) new staff, however, staff attrition continues to be a challenge. We have lost hundreds of years of experience in the last five years,” he said. He also stated that “there is an expectation that very soon another 15 officers will enter the employment of the DPS.”

He also told the court, that while COVID-19 continues to pose a “serious challenge for them”, their “inability to adequately house and manage persons with a communicable disease has created challenges and uncertainty among their ranks and coupled with the fact that they have to deal with chicken pox.”

The top Prison boss also views “unacceptable” the mentally ill inmates housed at the prison (56) stating that, “it is a serious cause of concern to us and is unacceptable because we do not have the means to house the mentally ill separately from the rest of the inmate population causing serious concerns and challenges for us.”

The mentally ill inmates he told the court see a doctor once a month and they try to secure those “acting up in a delipidated area making it difficult for them.”

In the issue of remands at the Dominica Prison, (119) Edmond stated that it continues to be “a serious challenge” and the stress of having 36 inmates in a 20X40 cell with 13 triple bunks in that cell is worrying and stressful.

This caused Justice Colin Williams to call this “unacceptable” saying the rule of law is being undermined when this happens and he must “speak about it.”

Work on the Remand Expansion at the Prison is at a standstill putting further stress and pressure on the staff he remarked.

He also told the court that Prison Officers are at risk of having to break up fights between inmates, inmates doing homemade weapons, and the lack of insurance for prison officers is “unacceptable” while the officers are being attacked by inmates and they have to risk the life of their families and work long shifts.  

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