Bordelais had been making headlines long before the announcement that the Correctional Facility would be housing refugee prisoners from islands affected by recent super storms. Several incidents of prisoner violence had been reported, including an incident on Wednesday, June 28 that left one prisoner nursing a gunshot wound, and two prison officers injured. On August 19, an inmate, Junior Duncan, who had been involved in the June incident, got into another altercation that resulted in a fellow inmate, Emmerson Dornelly, being rushed to hospital with two stab wounds to the chest.
Prison Director Verne Guard at the time assured the public that things were under control at the facility, and that incidents of a violent nature were nothing new to the prison. There were many challenging inmates who came in and out of the prison every day, he said, and there were ways to deal with them.
Considering recent events, it was hardly surprising the flurry of questions put to government officials and Bordelais representatives when it became known the facility would open its doors to inmates from foreign shores. There were mixed reactions: sections of the populace commended the government, some recalling occasions when other administrations had assisted governments in similar fashion. Others wondered why the government hadn’t chosen something less risky: helping hurricane-ravaged families, for instance, particularly those with children.
For most, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet’s announcement that Saint Lucia stood ready to help in that regard was unexpected, but for the islands where post-hurricane chaos had broken out around the region, nothing could have been more welcome. Local government officials first confirmed days after Irma that three inmates would be accommodated at Bordelais. By Monday this week, that number had increased to seven, and to 17 by Wednesday. As I write, Virgin Islands news outlets have reported that 21 of the islands’ most dangerous inmates have been transfered to Saint Lucia.
However, Prison Director Vern Guard has only confirmed that Bordelais would be accommodating a total of 17 prisoners: three from Turks and Caicos, 14 from the British Virgin Islands. Despite reports as recently as four months ago that Bordelais was overcrowded, Guard was not at all concerned about further increasing the inmate population.
When he spoke to the STAR this week he was altogether confident in the ability of his personnel to safely contain the new arrivals. The Bordelais population of 607, 157 over maximum capacity, had by June this year dropped to 525, still above recommended figures.
Reports coming out of the prison indicate that the perpetual overcrowding situation results in bed rotations that sometimes require inmates to sleep on the floor. Even still, the Bordelais Director assured all that the facility had the necessary infrastructure to accommodate “particular numbers of inmates.”
He echoed sentiments made earlier in the week by National Security Minister Hermangild Francis that numbers at the facility had been down “exponentially” for the past 10 years (irrespective of the ever increasing crime wave on island!) “As a result of low figures we were able to justify holding some prisoners for these countries,” he told the STAR.
Several prisoners have already arrived on island in the wake of the devastating hurricanes. The first set of prisoners was reportedly screened upon arrival, and found with no communicable diseases.
This week, government senior communications officer Nicole McDonald took the opportunity to remind the media that officials at the correctional facility had confirmed that Bordelais could take up to 50 foreign prisoners.
“We said we’re starting with three; we never said it was only going to be three,” she said. “The facts are that initially the prime minister offered to take 40. Bordelais and our security officials said they could accommodate up to 50. They requested from us initially three. We started with accepting three; we have now accepted seven. We can still take up to 50.” It is unclear how long the prisoners will be hosted in Saint Lucia.