Trinidad inmates attempt prison break in COVID-19 riot

Police officers at the Golden Grove Prison where inmates staged a riot and attempted escape.

Several prison officers in Trinidad were injured during a prison riot and attempted escape by inmates who claim to be fearful of contracting COVID-19.

Around midday on Tuesday, a riot involving 250 prisoners at the Remand Yard at the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca quickly descended into an escape attempt. The inmates complained about fear of overcrowding and mass spreading of the virus.

Armed with improvised weapons, the inmates breached the southern wing of the prison, which led to officers surrounding the area to prevent them from escaping.

“After that failed attempt to escape, they tried to burn the roof of the building,” said Commissioner of Prison Dennis Pulchan who spoke with the media after the incident. “That too failed because they were met with a level of force and they were contained. The riot was an opportunity to escape by breaking the prison wall…by breaking the roof in an attempt to escape.”

The officers that tried to pacify the situation sustained injuries. One senior superintendent suffered a broken jaw and teeth. Another was beaten unconscious while a third officer is in a critical condition.

The entire incident was streamed on Facebook Live and inmates could be heard shouting,  “We not dying from no corona.”

An investigation is said to be launched, including into the use of a mobile device of an inmate, and charges are expected to be laid. Commissioner Pulchan addressed the concern over the spread of coronavirus in the prison, stating that there were no cases of the virus in the prison. He said measures are in place to handle an infection should it occur.