Hurricane leaves $5M in damage at Correctional facilities
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Scores of prison inmates were soaked during the passage of Hurricane Sandy last week as rain poured through the roofs of their cells.
The strong wind and rain associated with Sandy also damaged some prison facilities, leaving damage that could cost approximately $5 million to repair.
"That's a very rough estimate done by our property department. All the institutions came away with some damage, but it was minimal at most," Commissioner of Corrections, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Prendergast told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said the most severely affected facilities were the Hill Top juvenile facility and the Fort Augusta and Richmond Farm adult correctional facilities.
Prendergast explained that the wind Sandy packed as she moved across Jamaica took the roof off the changing area at Fort Augusta and tore down a section of the perimeter fence at the soon-to-be-abandoned female penal facility.
The commissioner of corrections admitted that the downed perimeter fence poses a security risk but argued that appropriate measures have been implemented.
In the meantime, Prendergast said the roofs of most of the correctional facilities are in need of repair.
"When it rains we have major leaks - some inmates got wet but there was no risk to life," said Prendergast.
"They (prisoners) weren't spared. We had leaks. They (workers) had to deal with it at most of the locations," he added as he hinted that Jamaica's prisons are in need of an extreme makeover.
"We have serious problems with the conditions of our prisons," said Prendergast.
He noted that correctional officers had to issue plastic coverings to the prisoners, remove the wet articles from the cells and help to dry out the cells after the rains subsided.
Despite the challenges, Prendergast heaped praises on his staff members for their professionalism.
He said the men and women under his charge worked tirelessly during the wicked winds and heavy rains that accompanied Sandy's trek across Jamaica.
"Throughout the period, there were no escapes. At no point did the staff-to-prisoner ratio dip to unsafe levels," bragged Prendergast.
The prison boss said his employees showed up for work, and those required to stay over to do two or three additional shifts did so without complaint.