A pivotal meeting took place on Tuesday, November 7, 2023, at the Government Building, which concluded with overwhelming enthusiasm and support from the dedicated correctional officers of the Prison and the House of Detention in Point Blanche. This gathering hosted by the President, Sharon Cangieter and Board of the Windward Islands Civil Servants (WICSU-PSU) union marked a momentous turning point in the justice system.
In the presence of the Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, correctional officers expressed their profound satisfaction with the decision to relieve them of their temporary duty of guarding the police holding cells in Philipsburg. This change, which they believe was long overdue, represents a crucial step towards optimizing resources within the justice system.
Many correctional officers shared the sentiment that the previous arrangement, initiated by a former minister, was merely a temporary fix that did not make practical sense. It strained their already limited workforce at the prison, diverting their focus from the essential tasks of ensuring the security and rehabilitation of inmates within the Prison and House of Detention facility.
The Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, received warm accolades from the correctional officers for addressing this long-standing issue and demonstrating a commitment to enhancing the justice system. The meeting provided correctional officers with a platform to express their gratitude for the decision and underline their dedication to their core responsibilities within the Point Blanche prison.
While acknowledging the surprise and shock experienced by the Police officers’ union due to this transition, the correctional officers remained steadfast in their belief that this decision is in the best interest of both departments and the broader community. They eagerly expressed their willingness to collaborate to ensure a smooth transition, set to take effect on November 11, 2023.
Ministerial Regulation No. 482-11MBJUS, issued by former Minister of Justice Mr. Roland Duncan in 2011, temporarily assigning Police Holding Cells to the Prison Management, was deemed necessary due to circumstances at that time. This was done to address cell capacity concerns and to ensure the effective prosecution of serious crimes suspects. It was never intended to be a permanent solution.
The Ministry acknowledges its humanitarian responsibility to ensure that prisoners have the right resources to avoid misconduct or self-harm. Correctional officers expressed their emotional distress during the period when they guarded the holding cells from police officers and did not receive the necessary assistance.
At the meeting, Acting Director, Ms. Henrietta Doran, represented the management of the Prison and House of Detention, she expressed her support on behalf of management for the transition and reassured their cooperation.
In terms of future repairs, Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson announced that the National Recovery Project Bureau (NRPB) is undertaking the repairs of the holding cells. Funds have been shifted to repair the police cells, a measure that has received approval.
This meeting signifies a noteworthy milestone in the ongoing commitment to enhance the justice system, ensuring a more efficient and humane approach to managing prisons in the Windward Islands.