Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) in Balsam Ghut is currently facing serious staffing issues — particularly at the senior level — as only half of the facility’s Principal Prison Officers (senior managers at the facility) are at work.
This is because the remaining half has been placed on suspension for more than a year.
Two Principal Prison officers at HMP were placed on suspension for some 30 months while being investigated for misconduct; even as another Principal Officer was recently suspended pending investigation.
This information was disclosed in the Commission of Inquiry
) report which indicated that there are only three remaining Principal Prison Officers serving at the facility at this time out of a quota of six officers.
That information was based on an email reportedly sent to the Commission by HMP Superintendent Guy-Michel Hill back in December 2021 as the COI
was being conducted.
The disclosure came months after the murder of Nickhail Chambers which was committed at HMP, but it was not revealed in the report whether the suspensions were directly related to that incident.
Two prison officers were placed on administrative leave and later charged by police following the murder of Chambers back in May 2021.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom
noted that concerns at the prison led to a comprehensive independent review of security arrangements at the prison facility being directed by the National Security Council (NSC).
Sir Gary said this was deepened by the killing of Chambers earlier that year. The murders subsequently led to five other prisoners being charged with murder.
According to the report, the remit of that ongoing review includes identifying corrupt and otherwise illegal conduct by prison staff. Sir Gary said the review will also consider the extent to which facilities at the prison are safe for both prison officers and prisoners and compliant with the normative human rights of prisoners.
In his report, Sir Gary found that it was clear that there are significant issues arising in the prison service concerning the conduct of prison officers.
However, under the circumstances, and given the Commission’s load in other areas and to avoid compromising the review, he decided not to pursue enquiries into them.
Despite the ongoing review, however, Sir Gary said he felt the future of the prison service should be considered as part of a wider review of law-enforcement agencies that he had proposed.
Meanwhile, the report noted that while the prison, up to 1997, fell under the authority of the police and by extension the Governor as per the constitution, it was currently being overseen by the Minister for Health and Social Development.
Sir Gary said he did not know and the Commission did not investigate why the Minister is in practice in charge of the prison rather than the Governor as prescribed in the legislation.