IN RESPONSE to the spread of covid19 in the prisons, the tailoring department of the prison service made 1,000 masks in two days.
Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan said prisoners have been working around the clock to provide all officers and prisoners with masks. He said, if the pace continues, they would be able to combine the masks made at the prison with those which were donated to meet that objective by the end of the week.
He said the prison service acquired raw materials recently, and tailoring departments in Carrera Prison, the PoS Gaol, the Women’s Prison and the Maximum Security Prison are working tirelessly to make the masks.
On August 1 it was announced in a media release that one of the four people who tested positive for covid19 was a prison officer, leading to the evacuation, closure and sanitation of the Prisons Administration building on Phillips Street, Port of Spain.
A second prison officer tested positive on Sunday. Pulchan said the two officers were in a stable condition and being observed and treated at the Caura and Couva facilities.
One of the officers came to work feeling sick, while the other reported feeling unwell at home, and a medical team came to him and did a test which turned out to be positive.
On Monday, the prison service confirmed that a convicted prisoner, one with pre-existing conditions, had tested positive for covid19 as well. In a statement on Facebook, the prison service said the area where the prisoner was housed had been evacuated and sanitised.
Pulchan said the inmates who were close to him were subsequently quarantined and were tested for the virus on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, he said, senior officers addressed all prisons and advised officers to be cautious. They told officers to be more diligent in their contact with the public, use masks in the prisons at all times and to stay home and report their symptoms if they feel sick.
Pulchan himself spoke to prisoners on Monday, to tell them that the service was doing everything it can to protect them from the virus.
“I asked them to practise social distancing as much as they could and told them we are doing all we can to sanitise all areas.”
Pulchan added that aside from physical distancing the prison service has stopped physical visits and introduced communication through Zoom and Skype.
“Now prisoners can sit at the computer and talk to the entire family. A meaningful visit period is now being observed, and people could gather with family and have conversations with their relatives from home.”
Asked about the status of prisoners who were marked for early release as a precaution because of covid19, Pulchan said the matter was still before the courts.
Pulchan said distribution of masks will begin on Thursday.