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 World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies people in prisons as more vulnerable to Covid-19 than the general population because of the confined conditions in which they live, and proximity with one another – conditions that facilitate transmission of diseases. A sudden eruption of Covid-19 in prisons would put intense pressure on the public health care system in Grenada.
On Monday, 1 June 2020, the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (Caricom IMPACS) with the generous support of the British High Commission, Port of Spain, donated basic sanitation supplies and other related Covid-19 supplies to the Grenada Prison Service to help minimise the risk of infection and transmission of Covid-19 in prisons.
The supplies included infrared thermometers and cleaning products such as disinfectant, liquid soap, bleach, hand sanitizers and other necessary supplies. The supplies provided are in accordance with guidelines issued by the WHO for the prevention and control of the pandemic in prisons
John Mitchell, Commissioner of Prisons, Grenada, who received the supplies at the Maurice Bishop International Airport expressed “profound gratitude and appreciation to Caricom IMPACS, the British High Commission, Port of Spain and the Regional Security System (RSS) from the government and people of Grenada for the supplies received which will support Covid-19 preventative and mitigating measures in the prison.” Witnessing the handover of the supplies was the British Resident Coordinator, Wendy Freeman.
Lt. Col. Michael Jones, Executive Director (Ag), Caricom IMPACS said he was particularly happy to have been able to work several regional and international partners to have successfully executed this project.
Over the past 2 weeks, Caricom IMPACS and the British High Commission, 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. During this week, approximately 5 other Caricom Members will receive similar assistance.
The 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. The French Forces in the Caribbean are providing airlift of supplies to The Bahamas, Belize and Haiti.
In addition to the items provided to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 in prisons, on 7 May 2020, 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.
The donation of these supplies will encourage and assist with the accelerated adoption of WHO guidelines for prisons and other places of detention, as well as help mitigate the spread of the pandemic and reinforce security within Caricom.
In Grenada, there have been no confirmed Covid-19 cases in prisons. However, with an outbreak of Covid-19, the lives of approximately 350 prisoners, 165 prison staff, and the general public will be at risk, potentially placing tremendous strain on the public health system.