Westgate locked down as officers work to rule
Westgate Correctional Facility has gone on “indefinite” lockdown, staffed by “a skeleton crew” after officers decided to work to rule in protest against conditions, the Minister of National Security said last night.
Wayne Caines said the industrial action came after the Prison Officers Association met yesterday to discuss “working conditions and outstanding issues with reference to the prison service”.
Prison officers imposed a lockdown last Friday after three officers were attacked by a group of prisoners.
Now they have backed a work-to-rule, with no overtime — which means that prisoners will have limited recreation and visits.
Education classes at Westgate will also be suspended. Mr Caines said the prison service would be supplemented by 18 police officers, who will transport prisoners to and from court appearances and for medical treatment outside the prison.
About 20 soldiers from the Royal Bermuda Regiment are on standby to assist the police if needed.
Mr Caines admitted: “This is not an ideal situation — that is why we want to get both sides to the table as quickly as possible.”
He said: “Our hope is that, as soon as possible, clear heads prevail.”
Mr Caines declined to give details of the assault and added that a file was being prepared for the Department of Public Prosecutions.
He said prisoners “will not be able to leave their cells as freely as they were before the work-to- rule was implemented”.
Mr Caines hoped that the association would “immediately” accept the invitation of the labour relations manager to hold talks to resolve their concerns.
Thad Hollis, lead negotiator for the Prison Officers Association, told The Royal Gazette last month that officers at Westgate were under stress because of low staff numbers, and the lack of adequate training to deal with violent or mentally ill prisoners.