Seized: Potentially lethal knives and scissors have been confiscated at Westgate, as well as tobacco and a large number of illegal cellphones. *Photo supplied by Prison Officers Association
Seized: Potentially lethal knives and scissors have been confiscated at Westgate, as well as tobacco and a large number of illegal cellphones. *Photo supplied by Prison Officers Association

MONDAY, JUNE 18: A review of the prison system has been completed and both Government and the Prison Officers Association have to come to an agreement on the best way forward.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Kim Wilson and POA chairman Craig Clarke issued a joint press release updating the public on the recently conducted prison review. 

An independent review was conducted by Phil Wheatley, director general of the UK National Offender Management Services.

While Minister Wilson said that for security reasons, it would be inappropriate to divulge the full details of the review, she did believe it was important to provide the public with a brief snapshot of some of areas that the report covered.

Minister Wilson said: “I’d like to first note that I have been quite heartened with the cooperation demonstrated by Mr. Clarke and the POA in this process.

“Mr. Clarke has been a fierce advocate on behalf of his members, and while we recognise that we will not always agree on certain aspects ‑ I must say that he and his team have been very receptive and accommodating to this review being carried out – and we both believe that as we progress, we will see a stronger service.” 

Minister Wilson highlighted a few areas that the review focused on:

  • Security
  • Maintenance and upkeep at the facilities
  • Management and administration
  • Staffing and manpower levels
  • Officer and inmate incidences.

Minister Wilson added: “The objective of the review was to identify areas where there may be deficiencies and recommend improvements which would in part assist us in addressing the risks and concerns raised by the POA.

“I must point out however that the review was not solely driven by the POA’s concerns. The crux of the review is to assist us in strategically moving forward to ensure the safety of our officers and to ensure that the service is operating efficiently and effectively.” 

Mr. Clarke said: “I have always maintained that the POA welcomed a comprehensive review of the prison system. We all recognise that there are issues of mutual concern that need our attention and focus, and it is our goal to work together with the Minister to ensure that those concerns are adequately addressed.” 

To date, the Minister reminded that the following areas of concern raised by the POA have already been addressed prior to the completion of the review. They include: 

  • Fencing around maximum security units has been completed.
  • A new CCTV system has been installed at the Co-Ed Facility. 
  • The Commissioner of Corrections has established a Security Review Committee within the department to review the security of all prison facilities.

Minister Wilson said: “Ultimately we intend for this review to pave the way for a five-year strategic plan to assess, clarify and direct the Department mandate with respect to all aspects of policy, management, operations, infrastructure and legislative reform. We recognise that making improvements will require clarity of vision and support from all stakeholders involved.”