Task force to be set up to restructure prison

PHILIPSBURG--The formation of a task force to work on the restructuring and reorganisation of the prison was one of the areas agreed to during a meeting of the Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU), Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, Prison Director Edward Rohan, Chief of Police Peter de Witte and other officials on Tuesday.
The meeting was held yesterday afternoon in response to calls from prison guards to meet with Rohan and Richardson on their concerns, following the stabbing of an inmate last week Thursday and the subsequent discovery of two firearms and other weapons in the penal institution.
WICSU/PSU Secretary-General William Reed told The Daily Herald following the meeting late yesterday that a neutral party – a consultancy firm – would form part of the task force to handle the restructuring and reorganisation of the prison.
He said Tuesday's meeting, held at Richardson's office, had been frank, at times heated, as the concerns of prison guards were raised. Prison guards will be updated on the full outcome of the meeting today, Wednesday.
Reed said the union had raised the prison guards' various grievances and had informed the prison director that too much time had elapsed since the violent incident at the prison, before he decided to address the workers, who had been concerned about their safety.
Reed told meeting participants that the prison director's actions had been irresponsible and the workers felt offended and as though Rohan had been neglecting them.
Minister Richardson raised issues such as the high level of absenteeism among prison guards and the smuggling of firearms into the prison, Reed noted. The union was told that the latter was a grey area, as those responsible for taking the guns into the prison were unknown. Reed said Richardson had indicated that concern about safety and security at the facility was due to the high level of absenteeism.
"The minister said if you don't have people to work, then those who are working will not really be secured. The union understands what the minister was trying to say, but we believe that over all these days that have passed the director could have said something to the workers," said Reed.
He assured that the full outcome of the meeting would be provided to the prison guards today, as yesterday's meeting ended too late to inform them.
Prison guards met with their union during work hours on Monday to air their grievances and demand a meeting with Richardson and Rohan for practical solutions to their concerns.

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