Superintendent of Prisons, Mr. Richard Holder.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The perimeter fence at Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) is designed as a security mechanism to keep inmates in and unauthorized persons out, but in recent years a number of prisoners have resorted to cutting their way to freedom through the fence.
Since the prison was built in 1999 at Balsum Ghut, there have been upgrades to the fence, but it has generally consisted of wire-linked material with barbwires at the top to prevent anyone from scaling the fence.
Inmates who dare to undertake cutting the fence often get the job done, escaping the scrutiny of prison guards and surveillance cameras mounted throughout the compound.
Superintendent of Prisons, Mr. Richard Holder has not returned calls to BVI Platinum News following the most recent incident where a Dominican Republic native is said to have cut the fence and escaped.
Officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) are trying to track down Eduord Bueno Beltran, 38, who was serving a one year sentence imposed in July for the offence of illegal entry. He escaped sometime between the evening of September 10 and the morning of September 11.
Yesterday, September 13, cops traced his whereabouts to Prospect Reef, but they came up empty.
The RVIPF has made it clear to reporters that they are unable to comment on any conjecture regarding actions taken by the prison authorities over this matter.
"Any such activity related to the escape is entirely a matter for the prison authorities and therefore, questions should be directed to them, not the police," the RVIPF has indicated.
Beltran's escape is not quite unique. Since 2008, at least three other inmates have reportedly escaped by cutting a hole in the fence.
In October 2008, Trinidadian, Keenan Bethelmy went on the run for two weeks before he was nabbed on St. Thomas by USVI law enforcement authorities.
During the course of a roll call of all prisoners at the HMP on October 12, 2008, it was discovered that Bethelmy was not accounted for and an immediate search of the prison compound and all other areas of the prison was carried out.
The search discovered that a hole had been cut in the perimeter fence which was large enough to enable a person to pass through. Authorities at the time assumed this to be the escape route.
Bethelmy is serving a 10 year sentence for burglary and has been in custody since January 2007.
In 2009, police conducted an intense island-wide search for two men, including a man convicted for hacking his 13 year-old brother in-law to death at Major Bay, East End in 2004. The men escaped from HMP at Balsum Ghut.
Devin Maduro, who was sentenced to life in prison for murder and Kareem Durante, who was at the time awaiting trial for robbery were reported missing from the prison in May 2009. Officers discovered a cut in a portion of the perimeter fencing.
Durante eventually turned himself in, while officers on patrol in the Nanny Cay area arrested Maduro about one month following the escape. Maduro reportedly had in his possession a loaded firearm at the time of his arrest.
Maduro had received the automatic life sentence for murder and was also sentenced to a total of 24 years for two wounding with intent charges (seven years each) and an aggravated burglary charge (10 years).
Durante was sentenced to 10 years after he was found guilty of an armed robbery which occurred at Spaghetti Junction, located at Baughers Bay.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
In May 2010, Angel Raphael Carrion, a native of the Dominican Republic who had been sentenced to eight months imprisonment for overstaying in the Territory, escaped while working on the prison's farm facility.
In addition to overstaying, Carrion was also arrested and charged for burglary and was awaiting trial in that case.
He remains at-large and to date, no explanation has been given for the incident.
Previously, the National Security Council (NSC) appointed a three-member committee to review the conditions and procedures at the facility. Lewis Hunte, QC was appointed chairman, while Dr. Sylvia Simmons and Heather Cuff also sit on the committee which is expected to submit a report to the NSC by mid-June.
Former Education and Culture Minister, Hon. Andrew Fahie in a statement issued on April 2, pointed to a number of instances where proper procedures had been breached.
Minister Fahie alluded to the hiring of a Change Manager to develop action plans for the improvement of management and operations of the prison.