Thu | May 28, 2020

Families worry detainees at COVID-19 risk

Published:Thursday | April 2, 2020 | 12:21 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter
Loy Allison stands under the Three Miles bridge across from the Hunts Police Station waiting to visit her son in lock-up.
Loy Allison stands under the Three Miles bridge across from the Hunts Police Station waiting to visit her son in lock-up.

Some family members of detainees held at the Hunts Bay Police Station are raising concerns that overcrowding at lock-ups poses grave danger to their relatives amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in Jamaica.

Loy Allison, the mother of a detainee at Hunts Bay, said that she is extremely worried because her son has expressed worry about the influx of new inmates daily. There are fresh fears daily that they might be carriers of the deadly virus, she said.

“They are cooped up inside there, so I am afraid that from someone comes in with it, he will get it,” Allison told The Gleaner.

“I believe they should just release them or have somewhere else to put persons because they say people must practise social distance, so they should do the same thing in the cells.”

Allison’s call comes a day after Opposition Senator Donna Scott Mottley lobbied for the release of low-risk detainees because they were at risk in remand or penal facilities.

Minister without Portfolio Matthew Samuda said the Holness administration was not contemplating that move.

However, Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s communications arm, said that the force has reviewed its policies around access to detainees and made changes because of social-distancing concerns because of the cell designs.

“No new detainee goes into custody without a medical check. We have designated lock-ups for new persons, and they spend some time in there, and they go through a medical screening before they go into the general population,” Lindsay said.

Further, she said that relatives are no longer allowed to visit detainees, but they are allowed to drop off food for their loved ones.

According to her, these items are then sanitised based on the guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Wellness before they are handed to the detainees.

But 18-year-old Oshane McNabb said that is not enough to prevent his brother, who is also at the Hunts Bay lock-up, from catching the virus because police officers may also be vectors of the disease.

“There are also many people around him, so him still at risk to get the coronavirus,” McNabb said. “To where I am concerned, they don’t charge him for anything. They are just holding him, so they can just let him go.”

But Lindsay also poured cold water on worries that the police were potential transmitters of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, stating that there are new protocols governing their access of detention centres.