“Time has come for Prison Officers to take pride in their work and know that the position you hold is valuable and necessary in ensuring the safety and security of Antigua and Barbuda”.
That comment was made by the Attorney General and Minister of National Security and Labour, the Hon. Steadroy Cutie Benjamin during a visit to country’s lone penal facility Her Majesty’s Prison 1735.
While meeting with high ranking personnel, Benjamin said it is a known fact that the working conditions at the prison is not the best. He added that every effort will be made by the Ministry of National Security to bring some level of comfort to the Prison Officers.
The Minister added that notwithstanding the conditions, prison officers must recognize that the position they hold is important and the trend of multiple sick leave and absenteeism must end. He reminded the officers that they are performing an essential service and their actions can be very harmful to the operations of the prison and to the safety and security to the country on a whole.
Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of National Security, Stacey Gregg-Paige, mentioned that currently they are working on providing full medical coverage for Prison Officers. Additionally, the issue of risk allowance will be addressed at the Cabinet level.
The officers were given an opportunity to voice their concerns. Many noted that they are demotivated as the job lacks proper incentives taking into consideration the conditions, they work in. They also asked for more training, along with additional staff and other amenities.
Benjamin assured that the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party Government is willing to do what is necessary to improve the conditions of the facility.
He continued that it cannot happen overnight, “work with me and I work with you; you as prison officers must improve your attendance level and also work ethics. More training will become available and once your exemplify leadership qualities you will be selected.”
Benjamin noted that he will capitalize on Antigua and Barbuda’s position as Chairman of Councils of Ministers Regional Security System RSS to further provide much needed training and any other assistance needed.
The Prison Officers gave the Minister the assurance that improvements will be made.