NASSAU, BAHAMAS Commissioner of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Charles Murphy said today he is satisfied the prison can appropriately handle an exposure of COVID-19, noting all reasonable preventative measures have been taken to protect staff and inmates amid the pandemic.
He was responding to questions from Eyewitness News concerning health risks at the facility on Fox Hill Road, which houses between 1,600 and 1,700 inmates in close quarters.
So far, we have an area that we have set aside if there is a case, said Murphy, when asked about COVID-19 protocols.
We will isolate that individual until we get the necessary transportation to move them from the prison to the facility that will necessarily be [treating them].
He continued: I am satisfied that we have the facility to isolate until such time; yes, I am.
Murphy pointed out the facility closed its doors to the public after the first case was confirmed in mid-March, bringing an end to visitation in hopes of limiting exposure.
All other public activities were stopped.
Screening became standard protocol for officers among the few people on the compound who interact with the wider public.
According to Murphy, Inmates coming in for the first time following the first case were also screened a placed in a separate holding area in isolation for 14 days before being placed into the general population.
Hand sanitizers were also distributed to all staff and inmates, he said.
A deep sanitization of the facility was also performed, including spraying appropriate cleaners on all walls and walkways.
There have been no infections reported at the facility on Fox Hill Road.
But Murphy said the prison will take no chances.
He said the facility has been stocked with personal protective equipment (PPEs) to protect officers and other personnel.
There are five housing facilities at the site.
The premise that we operate on is that those persons who were in prison before this situation occurred, we are of the view that they should be free from infection, Murphy said.
Even though we are in one cell, wherever possible we seek for them to practice social distancing.
But, we believe that only persons who move back and forth from the community, there is possible chance of them bringing it in, so we do our best to exercise social distancing in as much as possible.
He added: We are practicing in as much as possible social distancing.
Masks have also been issued to staff at the site.
Asked whether inmates have been provided masks, Murphy said the prison is seeking to distribute masks to the prison population.
He noted masks can be produced in-house.
We can make masks, said Murphy, though he was unable to say how many could be produced per day.
We can do a considerable amount.
We are beginning to produce masks, mainly for the staff and the inmates.
With the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases that have yet to reach a peak in The Bahamas, the corrections commissioner said correctional officers will remain on the frontlines to uphold their duty and will continue to carry out all due diligence.
I think we need to take under consideration that we are essential workers and it doesnt matter what happens, we cant close the prison down.
Correctional officers have to be there 24/7, whatever the circumstances or conditions might be, we are there.
We are always on the frontline, always as much as any other department.
We dont know who has what and so we have to always be there to ensure that the inmates are taken care of.
We cant run away from our duty and we are committed to that, and we think we have carried out all diligence; without flinching or failing.
There have been 41 confirmed cases of the virus in The Bahamas.
Eight people have died, and five people have been listed as recovered.
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