- Written by CONOR KING DEVITT
- Published: 26 September 2017
Governor Gus Jaspert announced Monday that he issued warrants for the transfer of prisoners to St. Lucia.
The territory’s inmate population has been a public concern since the Sept. 6 passage of Hurricane Irma, which caused major damage to Her Majesty’s Prison and spurred mass escapes from the Balsams Ghut facility.
At a press conference on Friday, Education and Culture Minister Myron Walwyn — who shares responsibility for the prison with the governor — explained that 137 of the 143 inmates had returned to HMP, and that the six outstanding escapees were “low-risk.”
The exact nature of the “escapes” has been a subject of debate. Though the situation was widely characterised by international media outlets as a mass breakout, local officials sought at least in part to downplay that image.
“The prison was breached, so what happened was some prisoners left but actually were abiding and [going] forth and back every day,” Mr. Jaspert said during a Sept. 18 press conference. “Some actually were helping to rebuild the prison and taking shelter themselves: They were going back.”
The governor also acknowledged, however, that some inmates used the opportunity cause problems in the community.
At the press conference on Friday, Mr. Walwyn (R-at large) echoed Mr. Jaspert’s double-edged remarks.
“I am aware that there were some prisoners who were involved in antisocial behavior during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” he said. “But I’m also aware that there were also some prisoners who were extremely helpful, who were out in the community doing well and — as odd as this may sound — I want to really thank those prisoners very much.”
In his statement today, Mr. Jaspert explained that he signed off on legislation regulating the prisoner transfer to St. Lucia on Sunday.
“Following the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, one of my and Cabinet’s top priorities has been the safety and security for all of us,” he said.
The governor did not specify the number of prisoners set to be moved, or the timeline and method of the transfers. Attempts to reach him for comment were not immediately successful.