Health inspectors concerned about food preparation at juvenile correctional facilities
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
After evaluating the food preparation process at some of Jamaica's juvenile correctional facilities, public-health inspectors have found them wanting in several areas.
There are five facilities in Jamaica used to house minors serving sentences and at least two were given a failing grade after inspectors conducted a food establishment inspection recently.
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS), that has operational jurisdiction of the nation's prison system, was not able to provide inspection reports on the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Facility or the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Facility, which has a section that houses minors.
Lieutenant Colonel Sean Prendergast, commissioner of corrections and head of the DCS, told The Sunday Gleaner that an inspection is yet to be conducted at the Metcalfe Street facility which was recently opened.
However, the DCS provided copies of the food establishment inspection forms used to grade the food-handling operations at the Hill Top Juvenile Correctional Facility in St Ann and the Diamond Crest Juvenile Correctional facility located on the border of Clarendon and St Elizabeth.
Both inspections found the facilities food operations to be in an "unsatisfactory" state.
The facilities are inspected with a weighted instrument and are deemed unsatisfactory if they fail to make the grade in any one of the critical areas outlined on the form.
During an inspection in April of this year, the public-health inspector gave the personnel at the Hill Top facility a zero for the categories covering good hygienic practices and proper sanitising of utensils.
The public-health inspector also slapped the facility with a zero for its "food contact services of equipment and utensils" to ensure that they are "clean (and) free of abrasives (and) detergents". Hill Top also failed the clean surface section which covered walls, ceilings and other exteriors.
However, the facility scored full marks for its insect, rodent and animal control. The public-health inspector also gave Hill Top the thumbs up for its solid-waste management. But, the inspector saw enough shortcomings in its food operations not to recommend the facility for certification.
In one of several recommendations, the inspector urged the Hill Top management team to provide staff members with a hand-washing facility equipped with running water, liquid soap and paper towel.
Unlike its St Ann counterpart, the Diamond Crest facility was given a failing grade for its insect, rodent and animal control. The facility also failed a section of the solid-waste management test as the outside storage area enclosures were not deemed to be properly constructed or clean.
The public-health inspector recommended that the Diamond Crest management team address the unsatisfactory washing and sanitation area for the pots. "Washing tubs must be installed under a covered area," the inspector noted.
"The pile-up of garbage in the burning house is unsatisfactory," the inspector added as he told the operators that the burning of garbage as a method of disposal was substandard.
The borderline-based facility was also told that a "cesspool emptier was required to empty pits on a more regular basis to prevent overflow".
The DCS also provided an official copy of an inspection action sheet prepared by the South East Regional Health Authority for the Rio Cobre facility.
The Spanish Town-based facility was told "to establish a completely separate storage area for chemicals to prevent the possibility of food contamination" and "to carry out repairs to waste-water system from the kitchen to prevent the accumulation of waste water in front of the house mothers' quarters".
The action sheet pointed out that the latter matter was corrected while the property manager was to address the former issue.
In the meantime, the prison boss told The Sunday Gleaner that even though the facilities received an unsatisfactory rating the inspectors did not find many major deficiencies that would require the issuance of a closure notice.
"When we get inspections, we try to take corrective steps as quickly as possible," he said.
"We make every effort to make sure that the standards of the kitchen and the food preparation areas are of a satisfactory level," added Prendergast.
He said a lot of money has been spent in the last 18 months to improve the food-handling areas and practices in the juvenile penal institutions.
Prendergast explained that the rodent problem at Diamond Crest is occasioned by the fact that the facility "is completely surrounded by bushes".
"Whenever we do have a flare-up of rats, we take the necessary corrective measures immediately," said Prendergast.
The commissioner of corrections said his vision and desire is to improve the standards of the juvenile facilities to that of the recently opened Metcalfe Street facility but that is a hard task because of the age of some of the other institutions.
"We want to remove the unsatisfactory grades. We are not just sitting down and waiting on money from the Government. We are actively seeking private sector help to improve the standards," said Prendergast.