The Department of Correctional Services at Fox Hill.
By Khrisna Russell
CORRECTIONAL officers are threatening to “revolt” over long standing issues and victimisation they allege has come from the actions of Commissioner Charles Murphy.
According to Ryan Wilson, Correctional Officers Staff Association president, officers have been victims of “intimidation” tactics of the commissioner who they said conducts frequent walkabouts and transfers officers on a whim.
The association is also angered about a newly implemented policy that only allows officers to bring in a certain quantity of medication and food when they report for duty.
“The victimisation must cease before the staff at the Department of Correctional Services revolts against the Commissioner,” Mr Wilson said yesterday in a press statement.
“Senior officers are being disrespected daily and the association stands with all ranks and file. The president of the association is being attacked personally for addressing pertinent matters that affect the staff.
“Whim policies are being created to victimise staff. Officers are being treated like inmates. The Department of Correctional Services hired men and women, not children,” the association also said.
Health concerns and working conditions have also affected staff morale, Mr Wilson said. He noted the practice of inmates ‘slopping’ —using buckets to urinate and defecate in due to lack of toilets in some areas—creates a hazard for staff and prisoners.
“Correctional officers and inmates are faced with a toxic environment that continues to wreak havoc on staff and inmate housed at the department,” Mr Wilson said.
“Slopping still presents an imminent danger to officers and inmates. Recently air-conditioned units were installed through a number of cell blocks that immediately can spread unknown diseases and possible outbreaks because of poor ventilation.
“The stench of urine and faeces clouds the atmosphere through cell blocks.
“Tobacco products are prohibited, but we continue to offer inmates this privilege. The officers’ restroom in maximum security and the inmate kitchen is out of order. Male and female officers are at the mercy of their bowels if it chooses to break down. How can a commissioner who cares for his staff treat officers and inmates in such an inhumane manner?”
The staff association said several other unresolved matters have also been the source discontent and discomfort.
These include insufficient supplies to sanitise the working environment, failure of executives to approve tradesman allowances for inmates and insufficient prison transportation as only 10 percent of the facility’s vehicles are operational.
Several calls were placed to Commissioner Murphy and National Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday. However there was no response up to press time.
While there has been no official explanation about the officers’ medication and food restriction, it could be linked to instances in the past where officers were found drug smuggling.
Over the past few years, several correctional officers have been arrested and charged in connection with smuggling contraband into the facility.
In October 2018, one former correctional officer was sentenced to three months in prison after admitting to trying to smuggle drugs concealed in his socks into the Fox Hill compound. That same month, another officer was arrested for trying to smuggle a cell phone into the facility.
And in April 2018, an overnight operation involving more than 200 law enforcement officers searching the BDCS found homemade shanks, cell phones, marijuana and other contraband in inmates’ cells. This came after a video went viral of prisoners, suspected to be from the Fox Hill compound, preparing to roll what appeared to be marijuana joints, while music played in the background.