Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Police using Barnett Street lock-up to quarantine prisoners

Published:Monday | February 22, 2021 | 12:09 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU

Almost a month after several detainees tested positive for the coronavirus at the Freeport Police Station in Montego Bay, Yvonne White-Powell, a deputy superintendent of police at the St James Divisional Headquarters, says the Barnett Street lock-up has since been established as a quarantine facility, which should prevent the likelihood of another outbreak at Freeport..

According to White-Powell, persons who are arrested in Montego Bay and are awaiting trial are first placed at Barnett Street to observe a quarantine period before they are transferred to the cells in Freeport.

“Barnett Street is the first point of entry when they are being incarcerated, so we don’t directly take them from the street and put them at Freeport, where there are over 100 persons,” said White-Powell, who participated in the recent joint virtual COVID-19 forum between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In January, some 18 detainees at the Freeport police lock-up were placed in isolation at the facility after testing positive for COVID-19.

“We put detainees at Barnett Street for the period that we are supposed to observe the quarantine period, which is somewhere between 14 and 18 days. They stay at Barnett Street and if they are not displaying any signs, then they are taken to Freeport, where there is a larger prison population,” explained White-Powell.

The deputy superintendent of police said the containment of the virus in the jail was made possible by extreme vigilance, quick thinking, and evasive actions by the police, even as the raging virus has been impacting and taking a huge toll on almost every sector across the country.

According to White-Powell, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has an internal COVID-19 surge plan and stands ready to roll it out, should the need arise.

“There is a surge plan for the JCF; there has been one since the start of the pandemic,” the deputy superintendent said. “A plan was put in place, and the plan involves other divisions; so if St James becomes overwhelmed, there are plans in place so that persons can be moved to other parishes, because areas have been identified in all the parishes for COVID-19 isolation for persons that are incarcerated.”