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Prisons to receive urgent upgrade following Tower Street blaze

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Firefighters trying to contain the blaze at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in downtown Kingston, yesterday, which destroyed the George Davis Centre, which housed mentally ill inmates at the prison.

Several of the island's correctional facilities are in need of urgent infrastructural development, and the Tower Street Adult Correctional Facility in downtown Kingston is among those to receive priority focus, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, minister of state in the Ministry of National Security, has revealed.

Yesterday, fire of unknown origin destroyed the George Davis Centre section of the Tower Street facility, which housed approximately 18 inmates with mental health issues.

"We have identified specific institutions which will be upgraded, and the budget will be allocated to do so, and the Tower Street Correctional Facility is one of them to receive priority attention for infrastructural development," Charles Jr told The Gleaner.

The institution houses approximately 1,500 prisoners, including a number of high-profile inmates such as popular dancehall entertainer Vybz Kartel, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams.

"The fire certainly brings up a lot of issues that we have to address, but in the meantime, the authorities here are making arrangements for the housing of the affected inmates," the minister explained.

He said that an interministerial committee had been set up to look at alternative housing for inmates with mental health and other issues, adding that recommendations are forthcoming to deal with the situation.




"It is a matter of concern for us the type of inmates that are housed there, the category of persons, among them, the mentally ill, and this is something we have had several discussions about with all the relevant stakeholders," Charles Jr said.

He stated that the prison upgrade is a major priority for his ministry at this time and that all efforts would be made to get the work off the ground as soon as funding has been identified.

The fire, which began shortly after noon, was isolated to one section of the prison. The affected inmates have been resettled in another section of the facility.

Two units from the Rollington Town fire station responded to the blaze and were able to bring the fire under control within two hours, with no immediate reports of injuries. Investigations continue into the cause of the fire, while the estimates of the damage will also be ascertained.