Last Thursday, exactly one year after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the Virgin Islands and heavily damaged Her Majesty’s Prison, the last 10 remaining inmates who had been temporarily transferred to St. Lucia returned.
In mid-August, nine other prisoners were brought back to Tortola, and two others — Alcedo Tyson and Allen Baptiste — were returned earlier this year after their respective cases were brought before the Court of Appeal.
Governor Gus Jaspert announced in a press release last week that HMP was now properly equipped to house the inmates again.
“We are satisfied with key repairs completed at the facility, and we are pleased to inform the
Virgin Islands community that we are ready to accommodate our inmates in a safe and conducive environment,” he said.
Officials did not say publicly why the relocated prisoners were brought back in two separate groups, or who was brought back when.
Mr. Jaspert said prison authorities would be in contact with inmates’ next of kin to apprise them of the relocation of their relatives.
The governor announced on Sept. 25, 2017 that he had issued warrants for the transfer of some Tortola prisoners to the Bordelais Correctional Facility. Twenty-one inmates — several of whom were convicted of murder and are currently serving life sentences — were transferred to St. Lucia.
The HMP inmate population has been a public concern since dozens of inmates left the prison after Irma and temporarily roamed the community. Government officials have given various explanations for how the prisoners were able to escape or leave the facility, often categorising what happened as a prison “breach.”
Two inmates, Jose Almestica and Kadeem Jamal Hodge, remain at large.
The governor confirmed during an interview in August that an “independent review” is under way to examine what exactly happened at the prison, and it could be released this month.
Mr. Jaspert admitted that there is a difference between the inmates who “escaped” and those who were “enabled to go and see their family,”but after a follow-up question from the Beacon he declined to say specifically if he meant that some prisoners were allowed to leave.
“Let’s wait for the report, because I’d rather quote directly from that. As I say, there’s a mixture of what the prisoners did and what happened there,” he said, offering to speak further after the report is released.