IS enough being done to stop the spread of the coronavirus in The Bahamas?
The question is prompted by today’s story about inmates at Fox Hill prison fearing a lack of measures to protect them from the spread of the disease.
Broadly speaking, there are two aspects to preventing the spread of the virus. There is social distancing to minimise the risk of the virus spreading from one person to another in close proximity, and there is the use of personal protection equipment and hand sanitisers.
It takes little imagination to picture how the situation is in the prison, with too many prisoners in too small a space. Add to that a reported shortage of sanitiser – and some of that apparently expired – and you have a literal breeding ground for the virus.
The claims come in a letter from prisoners to The Tribune and Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, and detail a situation with a shortage of cleaning materials to disinfect cells and dorms, a situation where just one in 50 prisoners have protective masks, and even a cut in the daily rations for inmates.
In a sweeping rebuttal, Commissioner Charles Murphy calls the claims “baseless”. He says staff are screened as they enter, talked of hand washing stations, PPE gear for staff and sanitisers given to inmates as it is provided by the Ministry of Health. He insisted deep sanitisation has already been done in working areas, housing units and dorms, and that new prisoners are quarantined for 14 days.
While Commissioner Murphy’s response is appreciated, we do not think that prisoners felt the need to write to The Tribune for nothing. Indeed, if there was nothing to see, they wouldn’t have called upon Mr Dames to come and visit the prison to look – and not just at the parts staff wanted to show him.
The prison is a powder keg waiting to explode if the virus gets in there. So in an abundance of caution, we echo the call to thoroughly examine the situation.
How much sanitiser is being provided per prisoner? How many of the cells have been thoroughly cleaned? Has the amount of food been cut? All these are simple questions that can easily be answered.
This isn’t an issue of trying to point and say someone is doing it right, or someone is doing it wrong – this is a public health issue. If the virus gets in there, the number of cases our country has experienced will rocket. So let’s be certain. If the prisoners who sent the letter are incorrect, it’s a fairly short wild goose chase. But if they’re right, we have the chance to correct it now before things get out of control. Let’s take that option. It’s the only way to be sure.
A new audit? Can we read it?
New Police Commissioner Paul Rolle had an interesting response to concerns that the latest round of promotions runs against the recommendations of an audit in 2018.
He’s done his own audit, he says.
We assume he will be only too willing to publish that audit for us all to see.
After all, just last week National Security Minister Marvin Dames was still talking about the 2018 audit without mentioning a new one conducted by Commissioner Rolle.
Indeed, this new audit was apparently conducted prior to September when the promotion process began, and yet nowhere has it been seen publicly.
How many officers does this new audit recommend in each of the senior ranks? Does it still say the force is top-heavy? Does it address the issues of senior officers having different titles but the same job descriptions? Did it play any part in decisions regarding some of the previous senior officers pushed off on leave and returning to find themselves reassigned? Who conducted the audit and how was it reviewed?
There are more questions too – how much did the audit cost the public purse? What level of independence was there with this audit if it was conducted by the man who was subsequently made commissioner?
We urge him to publish his full audit forthwith. It’s a document on how to best run the police force and if it contradicts an audit carried out just the year before, there is clear public interest in understanding the changing conditions that led to different conclusions in such a short time.
People are very willing for the police to have the resources they need to keep our country safe – but let’s have a little more clarity about it, not least of all because one of the things the previous audit called for was transparency. Unless that conclusion has also been cast aside?