Timothy Seon, POA President

Close to a year after the Minister of National Security, Wayne Caines launched an internal security review of Bermuda’s prisons, Bermuda Real can disclose that the issues are piling up for prisons officers employed by the Department of Corrections, with issues at the island’s maximum security prison reaching the tipping point.

Apart from the fact that members of the Prison Officers Association (POA) are coming up on ten years of working without a new wage agreement, POA President, Timothy Seon said that factor pales in comparison to the fact that Westgate has increasingly become a dumping ground for violent offenders who are mentally ill and dangerous.

That factor, coupled with the increasing list of problems associated with the state of the physical plant, malfunctions with plumbing, no hot water in some areas of the prison, a leaking roof and most notably – consistent problems due to mould, including health problems like respiratory ailments. We’re talking about a building built in 1994.

And there’s another big issue on the table right now, that ultimately shows the POA holding out on a Government proposal put on the table regarding health insurance.

As quiet as it’s kept, that issue surfaced before the change of Government, prior to the last General Election, under the One Bermuda Alliance administration.

Since the change of Government, the proposal remains on the table under the Progressive Labour Party administration.

Thad Hollis, Lead Negotiator for POA

What hasn’t changed is the POA’s position and stance against the proposal put before Bermuda’s fire fighters, police officers and prison officers. And according to the President of the POA , prison officers are adamant that they will continue to hold out.

Included in this story is the day-to-day issues prison officers are faced with, including the increasing use of drones to drop off contraband behind prison walls.

While announcing the review in the House of Assembly in July 2018, the Minister said: “Despite the challenges faced by the department, it strives to maintain high standards of security as this is essential to the safe operation of any corrections regime.

“In light of this, a security plan with stringent measures is in place to manage and mitigate the inherent risks that are associated with Corrections.

“The management and staff remain committed to meeting their objectives of rehabilitation, while ensuring the safety and security of the island’s correctional facilities,” said Mr Caines.

Nearly a year later, the POA says by no means are they working under conditions “essential to the safe operation” of Westgate Correctional Facility, when it has become a “dumping ground violent offenders who are also mentally ill and dangerous”.

We have a number of serious incidents on record, including prison officers who were seriously injured on the job, some who opted never to work in prisons ever again.

Bermuda Real has been in talks on this story for the past four weeks, and we’re finally ready to bring you the full story, on Tuesday, March 26 at 8am, when the Bermuda News Syndicate sits down live and direct with Timothy Seon, and the POA’s lead negotiator and advisor Thad Hollis on Fresh TV.

That’s this Tuesday, March 26 at 8am on Fresh TV live in studio – see you then!