A female prisoner on remand at the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) was assaulted by three male inmates just after noon on Monday sparking a revision of the rules and procedures pertaining to the prison.
The incident will test the knowledge and experience of Hilary Herman, the Director of Corrections who is registering one week on the job today, but who has served twice before in that position, making this the third time he has been at the helm of the Dennery based prison.
The circumstances of the shocking incident that occurred in the prison’s medical facility are under intense investigation by investigators from the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. Prison authorities are also conducting their own internal investigations because as Herman said Tuesday “something obviously went wrong.”
“The police are conducting the investigations but we are conducting our own internally to find out what went wrong and why it went wrong,” Herman avowed.
But what could have gone wrong causing the two genders to meet in one facility, seeing that at the BCF the male and female sections are separated?
“Something obviously went wrong and that is what we have to decide upon completion of the investigation,” Herman soliloquized.
It is unusual for male and female prisoners at the BCF to meet and mingle. As Herman put it at Tuesday’s press conference “very seldom do male and female find themselves together, exceptions are in classes, in church…but normally they are not together.”
However, the medical facility at the BCF is shared by both male and female inmates. According to Herman the assault “took place within the medical and female unit. The two are joined units so it took place in that block where you will have both male and female having access to that facility.”
“At some point there will be males and females at that facility. Procedures were not followed. We have to look into why they were not followed. This speaks to a breakdown of discipline at the prison. This is my fifth day on the job and we are reviewing policies and procedures looking to see how we can strengthen these procedures,” Herman said Tuesday.
He declined comment on whether the assault on the female was of a sexual nature but did say the matter is under investigation, the assault was physical and that a medical examination was being conducted.
The male inmates who breached the prison’s procedures and rules and attacked the female prisoner have been segregated while the female has been and continues to be counselled under the watchful eye of the government departments of Human Services and Probation.
The assault on the female prisoner is the tip of the iceberg of issues and problems confounding the BCF as noted by Herman.
“Currently we have a problem with infrastructure. It is a management challenge to try to discipline and keep inmates segregated. We need to go back to what we used to have. We have become complacent. There is a lot of revamping to do in order to go back to standard policies and procedures. This incident directs that this needs to happen,” Herman asserted.
Herman had issues at the BCF in his earlier years as head of the facility, even with correctional officers. He had, at one time listed, among the challenges faced at the Facility and the Prison Service in Saint Lucia, such things as outdated prison legislation, overcrowding, high proportion of pre-trial prisoners, punitive criminal justice policies that penalize minor offences and criminalize large numbers of young people and a host of other issues.
When asked about his reappointment to head of the BCF, Herman expressed that he still has a contribution to make.
“The opportunity is there. Not too many people were knocking for this job. Corrections is a calling, not too many people want it or have it,” he remarked.
Aside from a deteriorating structure and complacency at the facility Herman now has to battle with criminal gangs at the prison which he said are creating challenges for the placement of inmates at the BCF.
Noting that the prison was originally built with a segregation unit which was used to house juveniles, Herman said that with the gang issue at the prison segregation was becoming difficult.
“It is a management challenge to try to discipline and keep inmates segregated. It is a huge challenge and it is mine to take on and I will,” he said, adding that on the admission of an inmate a determination is made whether that inmate belongs to a gang so as to protect that inmate.
“You want to make sure he is not assigned to an opposing gang unit, so we have to do the segregation at that time. We have to manage it and even when you manage it you create other problems in other units,” Herman said.
An area he certainly will be working on at the prison is recidivism. He told reporters that that needs to be stopped.
“We need to recapture what we did to halt recidivism at BCF,” Herman said.