Four foreign nationals were released from Northward prison by Governor Martyn Roper and deported on Friday, in an effort to reduce crowding at the men’s prison and alleviate COVID-19 risk.

The facility remains at overcapacity and currently houses 185 inmates, a government press release indicated, up from 181 prisoners reported at the facility during the first week of April. The prison’s capacity, according to government, is 169 prisoners and maximum single-cell occupancy is 138.

Her Majesty’s Prison Service had previously reported that full capacity at the facility was 213 prisoners.

The four prisoners deported on Friday were deemed low risk and were part of second batch of inmates to be released from the facility.

Previously, 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.

Roper said the release of additional prisoners could be considered.

“We have, using a mixture of the prison director’s existing powers and my powers under the prerogative of mercy, released 14 locally who were near the end of their sentence and already out in the community getting ready for release, and the four that we mentioned in the press release,” Roper said during Monday’s COVID-19 press briefing.

“Every care is being taken to manage the potential COVID-19 risk at the prison and trying to reduce the numbers in a way that safeguards the community. We have to have the safety of the community uppermost in our minds and we’ve done that in a sensible way and been able to reduce the numbers. We will continue to look at that and see what can be done.”

Roper added that COVID-19 testing will begin for prisoners and prison staff.

“Everybody coming into the prison new has to quarantined for 14 days and be tested before they can be integrated,” he said.

Other response measures to COVID-19 implemented by the prison service include taking temperatures of staff upon arrival and replacement of in-person visits with Skype or video calls.

“The onset of COVID-19 presents significant challenges in a closed prison environment,” a government press release read. “The Prison Director is taking steps to reduce the prison population in a manner that presents no risk to the general public.”

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