COVID loves prisons

There, the extremely contagious new coronavirus will find men without masks breathing on each other; men for whom social distancing is definitely not an option; men who do not have ready access to Purell or Clorox or Lysol.

So, the best response to the COVID-19 pandemic in prisons like Stockfarm is to attempt keeping the virus out of the prison walls.

"We had to immediately suspend visits to the prison and it remains in force as we speak," said Prison Superintendent Kenrick Jean Jacques. "Although I must point out that we allowed relatives to drop off fruits but we developed certain protocols by sanitizing them, also every officer on entry to the prison compound must properly wash hands and temperature taken."

Additionally, the Stockfarm prison administration has created a "quarantine area" for new inmates "which has nine cells and they are placed there for two weeks," Jean Jacques said.

He added that the psychological aspects of COVID-19 has been given attention at Stockfarm.

"We have also allowed inmates to call their relatives more frequently in the absence of visits. You know that once your freedom is taken away from you then it can be frustrating so we ensure that we give them some extra recreation time. We have football competitions, cells vs cells to ease the frustration of the inmates.

"I must say that thank God so far we have had no cases or suspected cases of COVID-19 at the prison and for this we are eternally thankful. Given our population a disease like COVID-19 would certainly be disaster for us at the prison," Jean Jacques said.

Stockfarm has a population of 201 males and three females.

"We are not over-populated so we are not under any threats at the moment. I must point out to you that once we see anything which appears to be suspicious to us we alert our doctor who then deals with the matter," he said.

Elsewhere in the world, COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire. According the Marshall Project, a US journalism organisation that tracks COVID-19 numbers in prisons, by 27 May, at least 34,584 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in prisons in the United States.

In Haiti, last week there are 1,174 cases of COVID-19, and 33 deaths so far. Of the confirmed infections, 11 are inmates at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, the director of the prison system confirmed to the Miami Herald.

"Prisons are in no way equipped to deal with COVID-19," said the Lancet journal.

To help in the fight against COVID-19, on Friday, 29 May, 2020 the Dominica Prison Services received much-needed assistance from the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and the United Kingdom.

At the Douglas-Charles Airport, Jean Jacques received an air shipment from the Regional Security System of basic sanitation supplies that included infrared thermometers, cleaning products such as disinfectant, liquid soap, bleach and hand sanitizers.