Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Inmates, get vaxxed!

Advocate concerned about increase in COVID-19 cases in the prison

Published:Sunday | October 24, 2021 | 12:06 AM
Carla Gullotta, president of Stand Up For Jamaica
Carla Gullotta, president of Stand Up For Jamaica
Currently, there are 74 positive COVID-19 cases among the inmate population at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre while one inmate has been hospitalised.
Currently, there are 74 positive COVID-19 cases among the inmate population at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre while one inmate has been hospitalised.
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With a rise in COVID-19 cases at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre and no yield to calls for the release of some low-risk inmates, Carla Gullotta, president of Stand Up For Jamaica, is urging reluctant inmates and correctional officers to get vaccinated before the situation worsens.

According to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), both inmates and correctional officers have been falling ill to the disease, with only 8.7 per cent of the prison population and 23.3 per cent of staff fully vaccinated.

“Currently, there are 74 positive cases among the inmate population while one inmate has been hospitalised,” the DCS said on Saturday, noting that there are three positive cases at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, two at South Camp Juvenile and one at Hilltop Juvenile.

“Two staff members at the institution have tested positive and are now in isolation,” the state agency said, adding that since March 2020, 332 inmates/wards and 290 staff members have recovered from the illness.

But on Saturday, Gullotta – who since the onset of the pandemic has been calling for the release of vulnerable inmates, such as juveniles and those with mental illness – said the quickest remedy at this point is to ramp up vaccination inside the institutions.

“The attempt to vaccinate inmates and officers were not really successful. Most of them, inmates and officers, should use better judgement and try to get the vaccine,” said Gullotta, adding that she has been vaccinated and has also been encouraging inmates and wards during visits to the institutions.

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She commended the move by incarcerated dancehall entertainer Vybz Kartel to take the vaccine, adding that this will persuade others behind bars to do so.

“I would warmly suggest to them to think about themselves, think about those who are around them who they can possibly spread the virus to,” she said, not relenting on her call for the release of some wards of the state, including children locked up for uncontrollable behaviour.

In the meantime, the DCS said the Medical Services Unit has been steadfast in its fight against COVID-19, and that preventative efforts have been doubled, according to guidelines set out by the World Health Organization.

According to the DCS, “As at October 22, 2021, 8.7 per cent of inmates from the adult correctional institutions are fully vaccinated and 1.9 per cent are partially vaccinated. Meanwhile, 23.3 per cent of staff members have been fully vaccinated and 8.3 per cent are partially vaccinated. The Medical Services Unit continues to collaborate with the Public Health Department to conduct vaccination drives within the facilities.”