The block on visits due to COVID-19 restrictions has caused tension to rise within the island’s prisons.

This from the Minister of National Security, Renee Ming, who told MPs today that both the morale and behaviour of inmates had deteriorated in recent months.

Speaking in the Lower House this morning, the Minister said: “The suspension of in-person visits and other activities has resulted in increased frustrations within the facilities.

Her comments came with the tabling of the 2020 reports for the Parole Board and the Treatment of Offenders Board.

She noted that the Treatment of Offenders Board dealt with 55 hearings within the period covered in the report and that 40 percent of them had to do with unauthorised items – the most frequent of which was cell phones behind prison walls.

This is a five percent increase over mobile phone-related adjudications in 2019,” said Ms Ming.

The board reports that 13 percent of adjudications involved assaults on inmates or corrections officers.

“The board attributes much of these offences to increased tensions, coupled with the added restrictions of COVID-19.”

Efforts have been made to reduce the level of tension, including the installation of a second water heater at Westgate Correctional Facility.

“The board notes that all of the facilities require maintenance, primarily due to the age of the buildings,” said the Minister.

“The condition of the facilities has a direct impact on the attitudes of the inmate population,” she added.

On top of that she said: “Budget constraints are an ongoing factor – however the Department of Corrections administration continues to liaise with the Ministry of Public Works to complete upgrades and improvements to the facilities.”