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DCS backtracks on COVID-19 hotline

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2020 | 12:07 AM

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has backtracked on its plan to establish a dedicated phone line to keep relatives and friends informed about the health and welfare of wards and inmates incarcerated in the island’s four juvenile and seven adult correctional centres.

Instead, it has published the regular phone lines for the institutions, through which the public can get information about the impact of COVID-19 behind bars.

In a press statement on Monday, the DCS advised that its phone lines were active, urging persons with concerns or queries to call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Effective Monday, the DCS suspended for two weeks visits to all penal institutions, as well as the acceptance of food and care packages, in line with the national effort to curb the spread of the dreaded virus.

The DCS failed to give reasons for the change of plans in light of the assurance given to The Gleaner by acting Director of Corporate Communications, Santana Salmon, last week.

“We have been setting up our phone line to ensure that relatives of inmates are able to call to check on their relatives to see what has been happening, and all of that,” Salmon had said.

“We would set up a direct line. We are in the process of doing it now. It would just be a designated line. If and when we get to that point, that information will be distributed to the public as to how they can contact their relatives.”