3030188
Minister of National Security Stuart Young presents Christopher Chase with the best male recruit trophy during the Prison Service Passing Out Parade of Batch #673, Parade Square, Golden Grove Prison, Arouca yesterday. 2/16/21

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

After a massive outbreak of the COVID-19 virus at the Maximum Security Prison late last year, acting Prison Commissioner Dennis Pulchan says the prison system is now COVID-free.

Pulchan was speaking to Guardian Media at the passing out ceremony for 236 recruits at the Prison Service’s Arouca compound yesterday.

“Let me go on record at this time to say we have no COVID cases in the prison service, none, absolutely none,” Pulchan said.

Up until November 2020, the Prison Service had confirmed over 200 cases of the virus with infections in both the inmate population and prison officers.

But Pulchan said the officers worked along with Ministry of Health officials to implement strict policies to keep the infection rate at zero.

During the screening process at the prison before media personnel could enter, officers tested both our temperatures and blood oxygen levels.

“There was once an occasion at the Maximum Security Prison where we had 77 prisoners with COVID. We locked down that Maximum Security Prison, we worked with the Ministry of Health, had the doctors come in to see about the inmates, to manage their medical issues and we were successful in that regard.”

He said the training for the new recruits was affected by the pandemic and took one year to complete, instead of the six-month period it usually takes.

He said the new recruits will greatly assist in staffing issues at the nation’s prisons.

“It means we can cover more ground and the place will be properly manned at this point in time.”

He said there are still numerous positions at the top of the Prison Service hierarchy, including the position he currently acts in, that need to be filled as well.

“The Commissioner of Prisons is acting and all of his staff are acting but aside from that, this batch of officers were needed to take us to an acceptable level.”

Asked if he was concerned about the new officers possibly bringing the virus back into the prison, Pulchan said most of the officers are very disciplined.

“There are the exceptions, of course, those who would want to go to the zesser parties, but the majority of officers I think they understand they are frontline staff, they are required here and I have seen a lot of restraint being demonstrated,” Pulchan said.