The killing of an inmate and the injury of at least two others in a recent brawl at Her Majesty’s Prison should spark a thorough investigation resulting in a comprehensive public report on what went wrong and what is being done to ensure that it never happens again.
The tragic death is unacceptable and frightening, and it suggests that there could be deep systemic issues plaguing a facility responsible for the health and well-being of more than 100 inmates.
Too often in the past, the many problems that have plagued the prison over the years have been kept out of the public eye until they have boiled over.
At times, this secrecy appeared to stem from confusion about who exactly is in charge. Traditionally, the Governor’s Office shares responsibility for the prison with a government ministry. In this regard, a shake-up came shortly after the 2019 election, when the Ministry of Health and Social Development took over the subject portfolio from the former Ministry of Education and Culture.
Going forward, the secrecy of the past is not an option. Instead, the community needs to see full transparency, with the public kept abreast of all steps being take to ensure that any needed reforms are carried out with the urgency required.
The public needs to know that the prison is a safe place for its inmates.
After the recent killing, conflicting information was released about arrests, and officials subsequently said that no one had been charged. They still haven’t explained why not.
Nevertheless, some quick action was taken. The day after the death, government announced that the National Security Council had decided that two senior prison officers who were on duty the day of the killing would be sent on administrative leave.
The NSC also decided to launch an internal inquiry and instructed that a “wider external review of security arrangements” at the prison be commissioned, according to government.
These are all steps in the right direction, and they can’t come soon enough.
But they may not be sufficient, and we hope to hear more in short order.
Many questions remain unanswered. Who, for instance, will conduct the external review, and what steps are being taken in the meantime to secure the facility? How long will the probes take? Why haven’t any arrests been made? Who ultimately was responsible for the altercation and resulting death? Who will be held accountable? Who is in charge of guiding the way forward? The list goes on.
For the inmates and their families, answers to such questions are needed now