(CMC) — The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) has responded to a request from Haitian prison officials for “urgent assistance” as the number of prisoners contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) reached 26 at three prison facilities.
“Over 10,000 prisoners are currently housed inside Haiti’s penitentiary facilities which is almost eight times the holding capacity making it the most overcrowded in the Caribbean,” CARICOM IMPACS said in a statement, adding that with the support of the United Kingdom, it has immediately provided urgent assistance of basic sanitation supplies and other COVID related supplies to the prisons.
It said earlier this week, the supplies arrived at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, and were delivered to Louis Guerro Plancher, Chief of Staff, Department of Penitentiary Administration (DAP).
“The materials will strengthen the capacity of the Department of Penitentiary Administration in Haiti to implement its plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, in a context where resources are lacking and cases of infection in prison are of concern to national authorities,” he said.
The latest statement issued by the Ministry of Public Health said the French-speaking CARICOM country had recorded 133 new cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing the overall total to 2,640.
It said that two new deaths have been recorded in Artibonite, bringing the total to 50 deaths across the country and that the number of active cases is now 2,566 cases.
Over the past two weeks CARICOM IMPACS has donated supplies to the correction and prison services in 10 CARICOM countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
“This assistance package is part of an ongoing project funded by the UK government to support the prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 in CARICOM prisons. St Lucia is expected to receive similar assistance on Friday,” the CARICOM IMPACS statement noted.
It said that the Barbados-based 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. The French forces in the Caribbean also provided airlift to the Bahamas and Belize.
“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 Organization (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,” the statement said.
Earlier this year, during a meeting between CARICOM IMPACS and heads of Corrections and Prison Services, proposals were advanced to reduce COVID-19 in prisons.
These include the early release of non-violent 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 and the development of national prison pandemic plans.