Symister says current prison situation is no surprise and is the culmination of the wrong minister and years of neglect

Inmates at His Majesty’s Prison are expected to remain on lockdown until what some term “the disruptive situation” there ends.

Last Friday, December 16, prisoners threatened to riot over the lack of water and proper food, among other grievances.  

After they shared their plight with the public by phoning a number of radio stations that day, they were placed on lockdown on the weekend, reportedly without food, or the opportunity to bathe, or the chance to empty the toilet utensils in their cells.

However, on Monday, December 19, they allegedly took the key to their cell blocks from a prison officer and freed themselves, rushing outdoors to get some fresh air, according to reports.

In the commotion that ensued, the Police were called in to deal with the issue, and it is alleged that inmates doused two persons, including a police officer, with excrement from their buckets.

Reports say that officers resorted to firing rubber bullets and, allegedly, teargas to bring the situation under control.  Photos of injured inmates, bullet fragments, and reports that one man – Junior Emmanuel, alias “Steel” – was shot have since gone into wide circulation.

Attorney-at-law Leon Chaku Symister says responsibility for the prison situation falls squarely on the Gaston Browne Administration.  It is the result of continued neglect of the institution, he says, and ignoring the tell-tale signs of mounting tension.

Symister notes that, a few years ago, a report into the operations of His Majesty’s Prison was compiled – but never made public

As far as he knows, one of the recommendations made was the removal of the Minister responsible for the facility; however this which was never done, the attorney says.

He adds that the prison, which has long been in a bad state, has been allowed to deteriorate under the current administration and Minister in spite of a number of promises to improve conditions there.  

Meanwhile, Franz deFreitas, the United Progressive Party Candidate for St. John’s City South – in which the prison is located – says he is not at all surprised by the actions being taken at the institution.

DeFreitas says this outcome has to be blamed on the poor leadership skills of the Browne Administration, which seems only to “cog” ideas and then try to outdo the originator of the proposals.

A humanitarian crisis is how he terms the developments at the prison.

Meanwhile, communication coming from inside the prison this morning, December 20, included video of what appeared to be armed police officers patrolling the yard, while inmates watched from the barred-off upper level.

More chilling, however, were audio recordings of beatings that allegedly took place in the cells last night.  In one clip, a man can be heard crying out in pain while what sounds like blows to flesh are being applied.

An inmate claims that five prisoners were beaten.