Double lockdown: External visits to Jamaican prisons banned for 14 days

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has announced the activation of its prevention plan considering the threat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses to Jamaica and the over 4000 inmates in the penal system.

In a statement on Thursday, March 12, the DCS said that effective Monday (March 16) all external visits will be suspended for the next two weeks, to decrease the likelihood of the spread of COVID-19 within the island-wide network of correctional facilities.

Commissioner of Corrections Lieutenant Colonel Gary Rowe further explained that the decision to suspend visits was made in consultation with health officials, external stakeholders and follows the Government’s decision to ban public gatherings.

“We understand that relatives may be concerned about the well-being of their loved ones within state care. However, we wish to advise that we have been preparing for weeks for this eventuality and we are prepared to manage the environment,” Rowe explained.

Commissioner of Corrections Lt. Col. Gary Rowe (left) and a member of a delegation from the National Diet of Japan on a courtesy call at the Department of Correctional Services in September 2019. (Photo: DCS.gov.jm)

“We will do everything within our power to safeguard the health and wellness of our inmates, wards and staff. During this time, we will make provisions for relatives and friends of inmates to communicate with the staff at the respective facilities for any clarification,” he added.

Lieutenant Colonel Rowe further noted that the DCS has increased methods of prevention to include increased inmate and staff sensitisation, and a boosted supply of sanitisers, hand soaps, as well as surface-area sanitisation. The DCS Medical Health team will remain in continued dialogue with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to prepare for any eventuality.

Jamaica, as of Friday morning (March 13) has confirmed eight cases of COVID-19 all within the last 72 hours. The island has the most cases of the new disease in the Caribbean region to date.