Measures to reduce COVID-19 risk at Cayman’s prisons, including isolating new admissions and monitoring staff temperatures, are being implemented by Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service, according to the service.

To reduce the prison population, eight prisoners were released by Prison Director Steven Barrett between 20 and 23 March, and six were released by Governor Martyn Roper from the Enhanced Reintegration Unit on 20 March, the prisons service stated in an email.

Those released by the prison director were at the final stages of their sentences and met qualifying criteria, the prison service said. The individuals released from the Enhanced Reintegration Unit were deemed low risk and already had some level of community access.

“This created the capacity for the Director to instruct the transfer of 10 lower risk prisoners from Northward to the ERU,” the Prison Service wrote.

“The purpose of these releases and the subsequent transfers was to enable the creation of a dedicated admission/reception area where newly admitted persons will spend up to 14 days (as per Public Health advice) to ensure as far as possible that they are not COVID-19 positive.”

The current prison population is now 181 at the men’s prison, Northward, and 15 at the women’s prison, Fairbanks. The maximum number of prisoners per cell is now two, according to the prison service.

Full capacity at Northward is considered 213 prisoners. The “certified normal accommodation” at Northward, however, is 165 prisoners, according to a government website for Cayman’s prisons. The “certified normal accommodation” at Fairbanks is 35.

“HMCIPS is continuing to pursue options to (a) reduce the numbers in custody and (b) slow down the rate of admissions into prison,” Barrett wrote.

“The collaborative responses of all government departments in recognising the particular challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents to the prison service has been first class. The health and well-being of everyone in our prisons and the staff who provide that care is our uppermost concern.”

Staff temperatures are now taken at the beginning of shifts and workers must wear protective masks.

“We are procuring additional temperature readers (infrared) to ensure we don’t create bottlenecks at the point of entry,” the prison service wrote.

In-person visits with prisoners have also been suspended and replaced with Skype and messenger interactions. The prison service said increased funds have been allocated to prisoner phone accounts to allow continued contact with families.

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