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Prison resolution ‘will improve safety’

Security concerns: Westgate Correctional officers staged a walkout this week (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Westgate Correctional Facility will be a safer place to work and reside following this week’s now-resolved dispute, the president of the Prison Officers Association has said.

Timothy Seon added that the guards’ suspension of certain services had been a last resort to ensure the facility’s management addressed their ongoing security concerns.

On Monday morning, officers gathered in the parking lot — with some continuing their shifts within the facility to ensure that it could still operate, albeit at a bare-bones level.

The impasse eventually ended on Wednesday evening when prison management and officers agreed an action plan to tackle the outstanding concerns, which included staff shortages and the facility’s structural integrity.

Neither side would elaborate on the specifics of the safety concerns to the media, deeming it to be security-sensitive information.

“Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the employer is responsible for the health and safety of its employees,” Mr Seon told The Royal Gazette yesterday.

“We were having issues with the safety and security of all those behind the walls of the facility, and that became an issue.”

Mr Seon, who works in Westgate’s maximum security wing, added that the new action plan would help inmates and guards.

“We are in charge of individuals who have transgressed against the law, and some are particularly dangerous,” he said.

“The security measures are in place to protect inmates from harming themselves and others, as well as for the safety of the officers.”

Commissioner of Corrections Edward Lamb also voiced his support for the agreed new measures.

“I am happy to confirm that we have reached a resolution. We are confident that it will benefit the entire department and, consequently, operations are back to normal,” Colonel Lamb said.

Senator Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security, said: “Both sides were committed to open and frank dialogue and should be supported in the way in which they have approached these discussions.

“The ministry will support the Commissioner and the Prison Officers Association in the implementation of the items from the action plan.”