Correctional officers call for heightened measures to mitigate COVID spread

Correctional officers call for heightened measures to mitigate COVID spread

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — President of the Correctional Officers Staff Association Herve Culmer said yesterday that more heightened measures need to be implemented at the prison, with officers ensuring they are adhering to health protocols.

Culmer’s comment comes after several correction officers have been infected with COVID-19 in recent weeks.

There are currently nine active cases among officers, according to officials.

“I think that all of the measures thus far we have put in place have been working but everything now needs to be heightened, everything needs to be multiplied,” Culmer told Eyewitness News.

“For the most part, our inmates don’t go anywhere so the officers who would have contracted COVID-19, it’s obvious they would have contracted it outside of the facility and brought it there.

“Everything now needs to be heightened beyond measure.

“It is incumbent on the officers and it is very crucial that at work, at home, wherever, the officers must do their best to adhere to the COVID-19 provisions and protocols set in place.”

He noted that these efforts include continuous cleaning of spaces, mask-wearing, and officers being more aware by washing their hands and sanitizing more often.

Just two days after The Bahamas saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in March, BDOCS implemented several precautionary measures to protect against the spread of the virus.

The institute advised of the immediate suspension of visitations, commissary, property collection, church services, and all other activities.

Culmer said the general idea of COVID-19 has become a scary concept, given its newness to the world, The Bahamas, and now the facility.

“For a long time, we have been COVID-19 free and now here we are faced with a few of our staff contracting COVID-19, so the thought of it is just scary in general,” he added.

Culmer also applauded the officers for doing an exceptional job to date, adhering to health protocols, and avoiding the virus thus far.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a few officers tested positive, and it’s unfortunate, but for the most part, we have a large amount of staff, so I have to applaud the staff for the effort in adhering to the protocols thus far,” he said.

On Sunday, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames advised that while there have been several cases of COVID-19 among staff and officers at the Department of Correctional Services in the last couple of weeks, there has yet to be a confirmed case among the inmate population.

Dames said an inmate receiving care at Princess Margaret Hospital over a month ago contracted the virus, but “he was never at the prison during the time he caught it”.

The minister acknowledged that with the continued rise in infections in New Providence, and the foot traffic in and out of the facility, a case among prisoners, despite stringent practices, can occur.

He also advised that the facility continues to quarantine new inmates and those on remand before they join the general population — a practice performed since the outbreak in mid-March in The Bahamas.

As of June 30, 2019, the number of inmate admissions amounted to 2,558 people, with the facility’s capacity being 1,000 persons.

The total number of staff amounted to 734  – of which 715 are uniformed and 19 are non-uniformed.