Caines pledges to fix Westgate problems
“Unacceptable” conditions at the Westgate men’s prison will be tackled, the Minister of National Security has vowed.
Wayne Caines was speaking after inmates at the West End jail highlighted their complaints to him.
Mr Caines told the House of Assembly that Westgate had been without hot water for more than two years.
He added that mould, plumbing problems and poor ventilation plagued the prison, as well as other institutions that housed offenders, including those for women and teenagers.
Mr Caines told MPs the Department of Corrections budget for 2020-21 was estimated to be almost $25.6 million.
He deviated from his prepared presentation when he reached the matter of building upgrades in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.
The minister said that Westgate inmates “demanded” a meeting when he visited the prison with a delegate from the Turks&Caicos Islands last month.
Mr Caines added: “They took me into E2 and E3 and when I went into the facility they, who are listening now, showed me some of their concerns.
“They showed me the mould in the facility, they showed me the leaks in the facility.”
He said: “I gave the prisoners the undertaking that I will meet with the prison leadership, that I will meet with the permanent secretary, that I will meet with the minister responsible for works and engineering, that we will put together a plan, that we will accelerate the plan, that the safety of the prison officers is paramount, that the health of the prison officers is paramount, that the prisoners that are within our charge are important to us.”
Mr Caines told MPs that all of the island’s secure institutions, which also included the Co-ed for women and young men in St George’s and the minimum security Prison Farm, suffered “significant infrastructure problems ... due to ageing facilities and less than robust maintenance”.
He said: “Mould, rusting doors, inoperable windows, plumbing faults, poor ventilation plague the facilities.”
Mr Caines added: “During the past fiscal year, outside cleaning companies were brought in to clean areas unable to be addressed through normal cleaning regimes.
“However, the recognised results were short-lived due to the leaks and plumbing issues.
“These conditions result in an unsuitable working environment for staff and unsuitable living conditions for inmates.”
Mr Caines told MPs that he was given an update on repair work at Westgate on Tuesday.
The information showed that plumbers were expected to repair leaks in the kitchen and pantry this week and materials were being prepared to fix communal showers and janitorial closets, although not all the equipment needed was available on the island.
Mr Caines told the House: “One out of eight of the water fountains are working. Many have been vandalised to the point where they are inoperable.”
He said a supplier for new water fountains was being sourced.
Mr Caines added that two new water pumps and a boiler system were expected to arrive later this month, and the boiler was scheduled to be installed as soon as possible.
Mr Caines said he wanted to “reassure” inmates and prison officers that the repair work had his “full attention”.
He added: “I went to the prison. It is unacceptable for prisoners, for our inmates, it is unacceptable for the prison officers that have been working in these conditions.
“I will say that from this floor, I will say that without reservations and we will work and we must work to make it better.”
Ben Smith, the One Bermuda Alliance’s shadow national security minister, said: “I believe that at some point in 2019 the minister spoke to the fact that there was no hot water at the facility and promised to the prison officers that hot water was going to be rectified by the summer of 2019 and here we are in March of 2020 and there’s still no hot water.
“The minister talked about all of the issues that now have come to light with trying to get Works and Engineering to bring certain things up to the level that is expected and the minister stated that the level ... it’s quite disgusting, the level that they’re having to deal with.
“We have to understand that although the prison is to incarcerate people that have broken laws, they’re still people.
“They’re still family members, they’re still sons, right, and daughters.”
Mr Smith highlighted that prison staff were also affected by the problems.
He said: “Why is this particular group being treated differently than other parts of Bermuda? “Those officers obviously will have some frustration with that work environment.”
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