The heads of prisons across the Caribbean are considering a proposal to release specific prisoners to reduce the prison population in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

News of the move came in a CARICOM IMPACS media release early Wednesday, in which they indicated that prisons would be taking proactive measures to protect prison officers, inmates, and visitors against the spread of the virus in prisons.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also made the announcement at the Ministry of Health’s update on the virus hours later, saying Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi will work out the details of this later on.

The CARICOM release on the decision stated, “Proposals by prison heads to reduce COVID-19 in prions at the meeting included the early release of non-violent and 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; enhanced information sharing among prisoners and the development of national prison pandemic plans.”

The recommendation was made following a meeting with heads of correctional services and prisons last Wednesday via a video conferencing meeting, the release added.

The meeting also discussed possible ways to keep inmates in touch with their families and loved ones, since visitation rights have been suspended in most countries. The CARICOM IMPACS release said to ease this burden, “communication is being facilitated through controlled WhatsApp and Face Time video calls.”

Guardian Media sent a WhatsApp question to acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan asking how many prisoners will be released based on this premise. However, he has not yet responded to the question.

Reporter: Mark Bassant