His Excellency Boyd McCleary
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Governor Boyd McCleary has assured that officials continue to meet to explore measures that need to be taken to improve security at Her Majesty's Prison at Balsum Ghut following the escape of another inmate just over a week ago.
"It was very unfortunate," said Governor McCleary, who has responsibility for security.
Superintendent of Prisons, Mr. Richard Holder has not returned calls to BVI Platinum News following the escape of Eduord Bueno Beltran, 38, a Dominican Republic native who reportedly cut the fence and escaped sometime between the evening of September 10 and the morning of September 11.
Officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) are trying to track down Beltran, who was serving a one year sentence imposed in July for the offence of illegal entry.
On September 13, cops traced his whereabouts to Prospect Reef, but they came up empty.
"Every effort is being made to investigate that and also try and apprehend the person who escaped. There have been statements made by both the Minister [of Education and Culture] and also by the police in that respect. The immediate repair has been done on the prison fence. The Minister visited last week; as you know his responsibility includes the administration of prisons, so he saw firsthand what had happened at the prisons and the repairs that have been done on the fence. The fence is for the time being secured, but we continue to look at what needs to done to strengthen the fence and strengthen the perimeter more generally. It is a matter of concern and we are looking very closely at what needs to be done to enhance security," the Governor stated.
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 May 2010, another inmate escaped while working on the prison's farm facility. He remains at-large and to date, no explanation has been given for the incident.
"Prion escapes are obviously unsettling for the people of the Territory and that's why we are having urgent meetings to discuss exactly what should happen next...one possibility is to further strengthen the fence; the other possibility is to consider additional security measures, but we make sure that we do everything possible to try and avoid a further recurrence of this incident," Governor McCleary stated.
Asked about the possibility of building an addition wing to house more prisoners, the Governor stated that all options are being looked at not only from the demand side, but also the supply side. He explained that they are exploring measures so that fewer people end up in prison by offering alternatives to custody.
"Clearly if the police continue to be successful in tracking down criminals and the courts find them guilty, we have to find space in the prisons," the Governor said.
He added, "We have had to take measures to put additional prisoners in cells and doubling up in the cells, which have been happening over the last few years. The population of the Territory has been building. Back when the prison was built, the population of the Territory was significantly lower than it is today...It's not surprising that there has been an increase in the prison population. There has also been an increase in criminality and that has caused us to take more prisoners up there. We are looking very closely at all that and we are looking at what options there might be to handle the over-crowding issue."