New officers being trained, but prisons are still short of staff
The prison service will be boosted by eight new officers after they successfully complete their training next month.
It is the first injection of new staff since 2018, and the service has been short-staffed for several years. According to the latest figures, there are 181 prison officers, compared with 226 in 2019. The service is budgeted to have 215 staff.
The officers, consisting of seven men and one woman, are currently in the ninth week of a 12-week training course that includes instruction in every component they will need to become successful and proficient officers.
Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, said the recruits “will play an essential role in our quest for rehabilitation”.
Mr Weeks recently watched the recruits go through their paces at a training centre at Ferry Reach.
He said: “I wanted to encourage them and let them know that they are valued and will play an essential role in our quest for rehabilitation. It was important for me to welcome them aboard personally.
“Serving as a corrections officer is a rewarding career, and I commend these men and women for stepping up to the plate and answering the call to duty.
“Serving as a corrections officer isn’t just a job. It is a career journey that can change not just your life but the lives of inmates as well.”
The recruits will receive instruction in security in a correctional facility, fire safety and the effects of incarceration, among other technical subjects.
Questions about whether the shortfall in staff had affected coverage of the prisons and whether any services had been cut as a result were not answered at press time. Nor were questions about whether more recruiting and training was planned to make up the staff shortages.
Michael Dunkley, the opposition national security spokesman, called on Mr Weeks to make public current staffing levels in corrections facilities.
He said: "The One Bermuda Alliance congratulates the new corrections officers as they commit to their training period and then a rewarding career impacting lives.
“Recruiting has struggled recently under the PLP due to the lack of funding, and, as noted by the government release, this is the first course offered since 2018, and due to missing several years of recruiting, coupled with a small class this year, it is likely numbers are still below what is necessary.”
Mr Dunkley added: “While the minister rightly commends the new recruits and visits the facility, we call on the minister to provide details on current staffing levels, what positions are vacant and if corrections is at mandated requirements through all departments for efficient and safe operations of all corrections facilities.”