Protesting inmates wreak havoc

The Glendairy Prison in Barbados, which was set ablaze during a riot involving inmates yesterday. Inmates of Barbados' lone prison lit fires and fought guards and each other for a second day, in violence that left one prisoner dead and eight injured yesterday, the island's attorney general said.

A group of prisoners forced to remain overnight in the yard at Glendairy Prison located outside the capital tried to break through an inner fence and escape, Attorney General Mia Mottley said. No prisoners got away, authorities said.

One inmate was shot and killed yesterday following an attack on a prison guard, Mottley said.

The prisoners then beat another inmate, leaving him with a fractured skull, Mottley said. The other injuries were a prisoner who had gunshot wounds to his thighs, another with rope burns around his neck who appeared to be partially strangled, a prisoner with lacerations to his scalp and three other inmates and a prison guard who suffered smoke inhalation, she said.

Barbados authorities had restored order, but Mottley said she would request 120 soldiers from other Caribbean nations to help with security and they should be in the country of 277,000 residents within the next 48 hours. The government dispatched at least 80 Barbados soldiers to the prison to prevent inmates from escaping.

"(The prisoners) are still completely within the control of the law enforcement officers," Mottley told reporters.

It was the third prison in the Caribbean to explode in violence since February. In the Dominican Republic, 136 died and 16 were injured March 7 in one of Latin America's worst jailhouse fires when rival gangs battling for control of the drug trade in the jail in the eastern town of Higuey set bedding ablaze. In February, nearly 500 prisoners escaped from Haiti's overcrowded National Penitentiary after a small band of men attacked the prison.

Barbados' 150-year-old Glendairy Prison currently holds almost 1,000 prisoners though the structure was built to hold about 350 inmates. The US State Department's 2005 report on human rights said that conditions at Glendairy "remained inadequate".

Barbados' government has already transferred about 70 inmates to army headquarters and they will move another 450 inmates to two undisclosed locations within the next five days, officials said. The remaining prisoners will remain at Glendairy in the meantime as officials discuss building a new prison.

Yesterday, a group of prisoners relit blazes from smouldering wood left over from a blaze Tuesday at Glendairy Prison, private Voice of Barbados Radio reported.

A total of 21 people have been injured in the past two days at the prison. Thirteen were injured Tuesday. Several buildings have sustained severe damage and the roof of the female prison wing caved in.

Some inmates, in cell phone calls yesterday, said they were protesting because they had not been given food and water while being kept overnight in the prison yard and were forced to sleep on the bare ground and not under tents as promised, the radio station reported.

Tuesday's blaze started when prisoners set mattresses on fire during a fight, authorities said. The prisoners were upset because officers had ignored their allegations that another inmate had tried to sexually assault several prisoners, Mottley said.

A Voice of Barbados Radio report on Tuesday, however, said the unrest may have began because prisoners were upset about overcrowded conditions.

Thirteen hospitalized after Barbados jail fire
by Norman 'Gus' Thomas Caribbean Net News Senior Correspondent and Ivan Cairo Caribbean Net News Correspondent on assignment in Barbados - Wednesday, March 30, 2005

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Thirteen individuals including six prison officers were rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after a fire broke out Tuesday at the 150 years old Glendairy Prisons in Barbados.

The fire also forced an evacuation of about 51 female inmates to an undisclosed location. One inmate who tried to escape during the chaos was shot in the shoulder, while two other sustained trauma and lacerations to the head. The others were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Two main buildings on the prison grounds were destroyed by the blaze which started around eleven o’clock local time.

According to Attorney General and Home Affairs minister Mia Mottley the security at the jail has not been compromised and “the situation is under control”. The minister assured the nation last night in a press meeting broadcast live that there were no escapes of prisoners. “All inmates are accounted for”, said Ms Mottley.

Internal perimeter fences that had been put in place several months ago had helped authorities to maintain security at the jail, she added. The minister praised the way the security system in Barbados held its ground during the crisis. “I think that we have been able to utilize the government services at the best of our abilities ensuring that what was a potentially explosive situation has been contained with minimal damage and certainly no lost of life and no escape of prisoners”, said Mottley.

While waiting for formal reports the minister indicated that the fire probably started as a riot among the inmates. “It was brought to my attention, that there was an incident between inmates yesterday (Monday). They felt that the incident in which one inmate tried to sexually assault another inmate, that they reported that to an officer and in so reporting that they felt that no sufficient action or no action was taken to deal with their grievance, this morning trying to take matters into their own hands. So it would be true to say that there was a fight between 10 or 12 prisoners this morning and that things flowed from there”, said the Attorney General who expects a full report.

Initial reports indicates that the inmates used mattresses to start multiple fires and the situation spiraled out of hand.

Ms Mottley further stressed that a thorough investigation will take place to ensure that appropriate measures are taken against individuals responsible for the situation “whether it is in the form of crimes being committed, or whether it is in the form of breaches of prison rules or whether it is in the form of breaches of behavior and elements of duty by officers”.

Until the administration moves to a stage of normalcy in the prison all visits and regular activities are suspended. Also the extended security alert, as well as the extended range of security officers in and around the jail and other places were inmates were transferred to will be maintained for the time being.

Though investigations and assessment of the situation are still ongoing, minister Mottley who visited the jail, told reporters that there is extensive roof damage and that two buildings including the kitchen, bakery and library may be lost. Until the government receives the all-clear signal of the chief fire officer as well as from the structural engineers of the Ministry of Public Works, the remaining prisoners will be contained in the three fenced areas in the perimeter. Meanwhile blankets, tents and chemical toilets were rushed in to facilitate the remaining prisoners and additional lighting is installed.

Efforts to reach Prime Minister Owen Arthur by phone were unsuccessful as Caribbean Net News was told that Arthur was in a meeting attending to matters relating to "national security."

Glendairy Prisons has been a political hot potato for successive Ministers of Home Affairs, who've had to find a balance between punishment and humane treatment of inmates.

Last year Prison Superintendent Lieutenant-Colonel John Nurse informed that while the facility was built to accommodate 350 prisoners, over 1,000 inmates were detained.

Shortly after assuming office as Minister of Home Affairs, Attorney General Mia Mottley announced the proposed construction of a new maximum security facility to house around 500. At that time, she stressed that a prison built in 1855 simply could not serve Barbados in the 21st century.

There’s no word yet when the construction of the new prison will take place.

Just in case you forgot - read the Universal declaration of Human Rights
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All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff