Prison bosses respond to hunger strike

The prison in Antigua
The prison in Antigua

ST JOHN’S — Her Majesty’s Prison bosses on Saturday reportedly buckled to pressure from frustrated inmates – mainly convicts – after the prisoners went on a brief hunger strike and refused to return to their cells until the superintendent heard their grievances.

The inmates, who eventually had a preliminary meeting with Superintendent Percy Adams on Saturday afternoon, reportedly raised concern about their overall treatment in the facility.

Narrowed down, the issues include inmates’ lack of access to proper nutrition and health care, the unsanitary condition of the facility, withholding of their bi-monthly toiletries and alleged favouritism towards some inmates by wardens, among other issues.

During the near eight-hour stand off, someone claiming to be an inmate, and who did not identify himself, called into a programme on a local radio station and complained about the aforementioned matters and the alleged abuse of power by some of the prison staff.

The phone call sparked a debate on the radio station, with residents expressing fear there could be a deadly riot or jailbreak, given the prisoner-to-warden ratio at the severely overcrowded and understaffed prison.

They urged the authorities to go to the facility and arrest the situation before it got out of control.

Just around noon Saturday, one of OBSERVER media’s staff got an overhead view of the prison yard from a nearby building and the scene was far from aggressive and confrontational.

Inmates were seen in the yard milling around, talking to each other. Wardens, including two females, were also on the compound.

Deputy in charge at the prison Colonel Glynne Dunnah later arrived, followed by several police officers.

After some discussions, a source reported, it was agreed five of the inmates would be allowed to meet with Adams.

Having raised their concerns with the prison boss and received a promise they would be afforded a follow-up meeting today, the five inmates and all the other prisoners ended their protest and accepted their meals, a source revealed.

Efforts to reach Adams and Dunnah over the weekend were unsuccessful.

Currently, the prison, built to accommodate 150 inmates, houses in excess of 360. In some cells, there are as many as a dozen inmates who share a pail to urinate and defecate. (Antigua Observer)

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