Now 27-years-old, the head of Bermuda’s Prison Officers Association (POA) told Labour Day participants that Department of Corrections staff stationed at the maximum security prison face dangerous conditions daily.

Speaking at the Labour Day gathering outside Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) headquarters this morning (Sept 5), Timothy Seon said it was a “struggle” behind the walls at Westgate Correctional Facility.

Westgate opened 27 years ago, in 1995.

Today, there are currently 51 “lifers” serving prison terms between 25 and 34 years behind bars.

The POA Chairman also said Westgate had become a “dumping ground” for inmates with mental health problems.

“Prison officers are working in units without proper ventilation. If it’s 87 or 90 degrees outside, add another ten to 15 degrees inside the jail.

“I do recall some people being locked up for treating their animals like that,” he said.

“Court-ordered programmes are not being made available for inmates at their parole hearing – if an inmate does not do what’s necessary in order to be considered for parole, that’s on the inmate, but at no time whatsoever should inmates be turned away because of the inconsistency of court-ordered programmes,” he added.

“When the Government asked us to roll up our sleeves and put our hands in the soil we were all for it. But when it comes to a point where our safety is disregarded, it has to be addressed,” said Mr Seon.

“Officers are on the front line. We need to be properly financed. We need the proper tools and equipment so that we can carry out our duties in a safe environment.”

Despite the challenges, he also thanked his colleagues for all that they do to get the job done.

Those challenges include officers having their lives threatened behind prison walls on a daily basis, not to mention ongoing assaults.

Meanwhile, BIU President Chris Furbert focused on the rising cost of living in Bermuda, highlighting a report documented in the 1971, to look into the issue, which highlighted many of the issue still prevalent today.

“For 27 years after the report, the United Bermuda Party Government did absolutely nothing to help the people of this country as far as the cost of living goes,” said Mr Furbert.

“November 1998, the Progressive Labour Party gets elected and they are the government for 14 years.

“The cost of living? Still extremely high,” he added.

“The One Bermuda Alliance wins the Government, and still nothing. The PLP was re-elected in 2017 and since then we have had conversations about food costs, maybe about healthcare costs.

“The overall expenditure is too high, and until we can all agree on that, you can put a band aid here and there, but the whole expenditure needs to come down.”

Also addressing the Labour Day gathering was Nishanti Bailey, head of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, who disclosed that she had been reinstated as a teacher, following her termination earlier this year by the Ministry of Education.

Ms Bailey, who taught at Dellwood Middle School, was unlawfully fired under the guise of what was referred to as a “resignation” by the Ministry.

The reinstatement ruling was handed down by a tribunal selected effective immediately.

Meanwhile, Nadine Henry, Third Vice President of the Bermuda Public Services Union, spoke of the hard work carried out by civil servants despite circumstances.

And Selena Fields, Vice President of the Bermuda Entertainment Union, said the island’s performers took steps to become more creative due to COVID restrictions.

“We are so grateful for the support that we receive from all of you, all around Bermuda,” she said.

“And that includes not only our members but those of you who love your Bermudian entertainers.”