COVID-19 testing underway at prison underway

COVID-19 testing underway at prison underway
Department of Correctional Services (FILE PHOTO)

Prison population at 2,000

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Health officials have begun testing inmates at the Department of Correctional Services, according to health consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis.

Dahl-Regis said an undisclosed number of inmates completed their sentences in May, and are ready to be discharged to their residences in the Family Islands.

She said to ensure those in question do not pose a risk to communities that have zero cases of the virus; a health team has been conducting testing on site.

Fifteen inmates were swabbed for testing at the prison yesterday.

Among those tested, were several inmates earmarked to be transferred to the detention center.

There have been no infections reported at the prison on Fox Hill Road.

However, the facility that houses a reported 2,000 inmates is largely considered a vulnerable site for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

It has 800 prison officers, according to Dahl-Regis.

According to Dahl-Regis, strict preventative measures are in place with social distancing between officers and inmates at the facility.

“I’m happy to report that on each shift officers are wearing masks and their temperatures are taken,” she said during a broadcasted press conference.

“Visitors are limited.

“Officers and inmates practice good physical distancing and hand hygiene.”

She said new inmates enter through a designated entrance and only after receiving a physical examination, they are quarantined for two weeks.

The facility has identified isolation rooms in the event an inmate or inmates becomes infected with the virus, according to Dahl-Regis.

“Officers who interact with prisoners are required to wear masks,” she said.

“In fact, the sowing rooms of the prison are making masks for officers and inmates.

Last month, Commissioner of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Charles Murphy said today he is satisfied the prison can appropriately handle an exposure of COVID-19, noting all reasonable preventative measures have been taken to protect staff and inmates amid the pandemic.

Inmates and their families have expressed concerns to Eyewitness News expressed over the adverse impact of preventative measures and the high-risks posed by substandard living conditions.

Restrictions on visitation has resulted in many inmates being unable to tap into funds for items in the commissary for example; however, prison officials have called this a privilege, and not a necessity.

There have been 96 confirmed cases of the virus in The Bahamas.

Eleven people have died, and 41 people have been listed as recovered.