Prison se­cu­rity at risk, Bar­ba­dos govern­ment warned

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - -Bar­ba­dos Today

Pres­i­dent of the Bar­ba­dos Prison Of­fi­cers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (BPOA) Trevor Browne on Wed­nes­day de­liv­ered a scathing at­tack on Govern­ment and the prison ad­min­is­tra­tion for their treat­ment of of­fi­cers at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds.

And he is­sued a chill­ing warn­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion that its treat­ment of the of­fi­cers was putting prison se­cu­rity at risk.

Speak­ing specif­i­cally about the late pay­ment to some work­ers, he sug­gested it could leave some of­fi­cers sus­cep­ti­ble to propo­si­tions from pris­on­ers or their as­so­ciates.

“This prac­tice is hor­ren­dous and may lead to of­fi­cers be­ing propo­si­tioned or en­ticed by in­mates or their af­fil­i­ates out­side of the prison. I am im­plor­ing and plead­ing with the au­thor­i­ties to in­ter­vene and ex­tend mercy,” the se­nior prison of­fi­cer said.

In an emo­tional speech to an au­di­ence that in­cluded At­tor­ney Gen­eral Adriel Brath­waite, Browne painted a pic­ture of a team that was be­ing ne­glected and ill-treated, and an ad­min­is­tra­tion that sim­ply did not care.

So strong was the BPOA head in his ad­dress at the an­nual gen­eral meet­ing at the prison’s staff head­quar­ters that a clearly em­bar­rassed Brath­waite, claim­ing that he had been put on the spot, asked jour­nal­ists who had been in­vited to cover the meet­ing, to leave the room, ex­plain­ing that he could not be can­did in his re­sponse in the pres­ence of the me­dia.

Seem­ingly still up­set af­ter ad­dress­ing the prison of­fi­cers, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral ex­ited the build­ing into a wait­ing ve­hi­cle and hur­riedly drove off without en­ter­tain­ing ques­tions from me­dia per­son­nel who were wait­ing out­side.

What ap­peared to rat­tle Brath­waite was Browne’s graphic de­scrip­tion of the sources of frus­tra­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by the prison of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing staffing is­sues and ap­point­ments.

“As it stands there is a com­plete lat­eral level of mid­dle man­age­ment within the prison where there is vir­tu­ally no ap­pointed of­fi­cer, if any at all. Fur­ther, as of 2015, our in­for­ma­tion in­di­cates that there are 75 Prison Of­fi­cer 1 po­si­tions in ex­is­tence, 35 es­tab­lished and 40 cre­ated. To my rec­ol­lec­tion there are fewer than ten per­ma­nently ap­pointed to these posts,” he said as the At­tor­ney Gen­eral lis­tened.

Browne spoke of tem­po­rary of­fi­cers who were be­ing paid late re­peat­edly and were be­ing hu­mil­i­ated and abused when­ever they asked about their wages. One such of­fi­cer, he said, was made to sleep on a “mud floor” be­cause he had no money to pay for ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“We had a sit­u­a­tion where an of­fi­cer was liv­ing at a rel­a­tive on a mud floor [be­cause he was not be­ing paid]. The ap­proach to pay­ing subs [tem­po­rary of­fi­cers] is dis­re­spect­ful and it is un­car­ing. I won­der some­times if the Su­per­in­ten­dent [of Pris­ons] is aware of the treat­ment that the subs get when they go to en­quire about money that they should be paid. Some­times ex­ple­tives are thrown at these of­fi­cers.”

The BPOA pres­i­dent said the prob­lems with re­mu­ner­a­tion were not limited to sub­sti­tutes, as of­fi­cers act­ing in se­nior po­si­tions were not re­ceiv­ing com­men­su­rate pay­ment. He charged that a num­ber of of­fi­cers who had acted in se­nior po­si­tions for ten months had not been paid, ‘and if so, spo­rad­i­cally”, for the ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that they had taken on, and he ques­tioned why the cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity did not live up to its mis­sion of care and hu­man­ity.

“I am claim­ing on be­half of the men­tioned of­fi­cers that their labour has been sub­ju­gated. The prison is one of the main pil­lars of law en­force­ment and its mis­sion state­ment em­pha­sizes care and hu­man­ity to its charges. Why is this mis­sion not ap­pli­ca­ble to prison of­fi­cers?”

The as­so­ci­a­tion head went as far as to ac­cuse the ad­min­is­tra­tion of break­ing the law in re­spect to lieu days earned by those who had worked out­side of their nor­mal shifts.

“Spe­cial days and lieu days are added to of­fi­cers’ va­ca­tion and our staff over the years has taken these lieu days as ad­di­tional leave . . . . How­ever, of­fi­cers who did such in the past are now be­ing pe­nal­ized for tak­ing ex­ces­sive va­ca­tion leave. This en­tire sit­u­a­tion is il­le­gal and un­ac­cept­able and the as­so­ci­a­tion is call­ing for an im­me­di­ate halt to this prac­tice and for for­mer in­ci­dence to be re­viewed,” he stressed.

Pres­i­dent of the Bar­ba­dos Prison Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion Trevor Browne (left) and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Adriel Brath­waite.

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