The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) finds it enraging the inaction demonstrated by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) in addressing the long-standing challenges around fatal altercations that have been taking place across correctional centres on a regular basis.
Yesterday morning, an official at the St Albans Correctional Centre was stabbed in the neck at a time when 9 officials were counting a group of 403 inmates and preparing to feed them.
Throughout this altercation, the remaining 8 officials survived through sheer luck, while the inmate carrying the knife ended up losing his life in the midst of trying to stab other officials. This took place after another female official was also stabbed last week.
This has been a national phenomenon, and in St Albans alone, there have since 2010 been 88 officials stabbed, and 145 others assaulted by various other means, bringing the number of all altercations to 232.
We are particularly disturbed by the response the department issued yesterday, which among others suggests that the department isn’t aware of the perpetual pending risks they have placed on correctional officials by saying that they will be gathering evidence and probably deploy yet again a National Task Team to stabilise operations in the centre.
We find this posture of disregard undermining and insulting to the many officials who remain traumatise by such occurrences.
POPCRU has had various engagements with the department about the seriousness of these incidents, and yet the department’s responses have not been coming forth. Instead, they have resorted to short-term interventions such as temporarily deploying Emergency Support Teams (ESTs) as and when the need arises.
These random occurrences have become commonplace within our facilities across the country, and they just go ignored by management.
Our staff complements across correctional centres have for years been subjected to unsafe working conditions within their workplace, and this state of affairs has been normalised by their seniors who have continuously failed to improve conditions workers are placed under.
They have effectively rendered the lives of correctional officials worthless through their failure to comply to their safety policies, and this incident has adversely affected the morale of many other correctional officials who continue to be single-handedly forced to work under dangerous conditions.
The challenges of overcrowding and understaffing stem from the indifferent attitude that has been demonstrated by the DCS management, and this due to the fact that they have over the years abandoned their core mandate to create conducive rehabilitating conditions.
Overcrowding, understaffing and the illegal shift patterns that are imposed on correctional officials endanger continue to their lives on a daily basis, and this status quo cannot continue unabated.
Our immediate demands are that there should be an urgent sitting with the department and stakeholders in resolving challenges workers are workers are faced with.
Issued by POPCRU on 02/09/2019