THE prison commissioner has some cheek. He thinks it’s none of your business whether coronavirus is in the prison.
The Tribune was contacted by a number of prison officers who were concerned about their safety at Fox Hill prison. But when our reporter asked the commissioner, Charles Murphy, he had the nerve to say we shouldn’t be asking the question.
He told our reporter: “Ms Russell, Ms Russell, Ms Russell, you’re a journalist and there are some things that you ought not to take up.”
I think we’ll make our own judgment on that, thank you very much, Mr Murphy. In fact, we would also refer you to the advice of the nation’s chief medical officer, Dr Pearl McMillan, who says that COVID-19 is a notifiable disease.
Under her direction, “all cases of COVID-19 should be reported to the Ministry of Health National Disease and Surveillance Unit”.
The concerns began after two inmates were moved from a cell block and put in quarantine. Staff still had to interact with the remaining inmates who had been living right next to the two inmates who were moved.
When officers raised their concerns, they felt ignored. Indeed, Mr Murphy said if officers spoke about conditions at the prison they could be fired.
This is not the first time Mr Murphy has dismissed reports about conditions inside the prison. Previously prisoners complained that there was not enough being done to protect them from catching COVID-19. Mr Murphy said those concerns were “baseless”.
Before that, he said there was “no truth” in prisoner complaints about small pieces of broken glass being found in inmates’ food.
As for the current concerns, Mr Murphy dismissively said: “If you have a cold, that doesn’t mean you have the corona.”
Mr Murphy, if officers see inmates displaying symptoms and raise those concerns only to be ignored – and then told they will be fired if they raise those concerns elsewhere, it means a failure of your management.
Numerous concerns have been raised with you by both inmates and staff – yet you would attempt to dismiss The Tribune for asking the questions. Indeed, you say it is “almost annoying” to be asked about a situation that can literally mean life or death for both prisoners and officers. We would think you could tolerate a little annoyance for the sake of people’s safety.
So we have further questions for you. What steps will you take to address officers’ concerns? How many COVID-19 tests have been carried out in the prison on either prisoners or staff and how many have been positive? What was the reason for the sudden quarantine of two inmates? What is the procedure for inmates to raise concerns about illness or the lack of availability of sanitizer or masks?
You see, Mr Murphy, this is not your prison, you are but a custodian for the Bahamian people, and when you try to hide information about what is going on in the prison, it raises suspicions that we are not being told the whole story.
When Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis was campaigning for his position, he said the FNM’s goal was to return power to the people. This, he said, could only happen through true transparency and accountability.
If you don’t want to be transparent, don’t tell us to stop asking questions – go tell the Prime Minister you disagree with his policy.
Shoddy election practices
It comes as no surprise that the leadership ballot of the Water & Sewerage Corporation’s union has been called into question.
Dwayne Woods, the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers’ Union president, had reportedly won a resounding victory along with his team. However, a closer look showed huge flaws in the process.
First of all, the only lawful places where the election in the Family Islands could be held were the Department of Labour’s offices. Despite this, Mr Woods sent the ballots for Exuma to the island administrator’s office instead. Why? Supposedly because members preferred to vote there. Preference or not, that wasn’t the designated location – which raises questions about the integrity of the site for starters.
Then we discover that the back of all the ballot papers were stamped with the election logo of Mr Woods and his team of candidates. How is that fair to any rival candidates?
Quite rightly, Justice Ian Winder has tossed the election result out and a new election must be held. We would sincerely hope that a close eye is kept on the re-run, and any such practices are stopped outright.