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Life @ Her Majesty’s Prison, Balsam Ghut! Is there a food & supplies shortage?

December 7th, 2015 | Tags: HMP Prison Balsam Ghut David Foot
The over populated Her Majesty's Prison in Balsam Ghut has more than 130 prisoners and now the state is unable to adequately care for them. Photo: VINO/File
Unlike US prisons, inmates of HM Prison are allowed to wear their own clothing. Photo: Internet Source
Unlike US prisons, inmates of HM Prison are allowed to wear their own clothing. Photo: Internet Source
The HM Prison in Balsam Ghut is said to be facing issues of food and supplies shortage. Photo: VINO/File
The HM Prison in Balsam Ghut is said to be facing issues of food and supplies shortage. Photo: VINO/File
BALSAM GHUT, Tortola, VI- Many persons have different ideas of prison life, usually formed by movies or what we learn about prison life in the United States through stories or experiences.

However, prison life in the Virgin Islands at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) in Balsam Ghut, the only such facility on the main island of Tortola, may be different from other places but is facing other upkeep and maintenance challenges.

The HM Prison has two sections, one for males and one for females.

The current status: Food & supplies shortage?

The male section of Her Majesty’s Prison was designed for about 90 prisoners. Today, the population is approxmently some one hundred and thirty seven inmates, which is clearly over-populated. This situation can pose a serious threat to the safety of both prisoners and staff at HMP.

Each cell was designed for one inmate, but today there are two inmates in most cells with bunk beds, clearly showing the stress on the facility and resources.

Inmates are given three meals a day, however, there have been reports that due to the financial condition of the territory after the 2015 general elections, where it’s reported that the National Democratic Party left the country broke, there have allegedly been food shortages.

Meals include breakfast of bread and oats, along with tea. For lunch it is usually chicken served with rice and vegetables and at times a vegetarian meat or fish; for dinner it’s bread and peanut butter sometimes with corn beef or tuna. Prisoners at HMP are asked to line up for their meals when it comes in the main compound (cluster) on a cart, brought by non-Prison Officers.

Over the past three months, there have been reports of alleged food and supplies storage. Each prisoner is given toothpaste, soaps and toilet paper. The issues are directly related to lack of funds, a Senior Prison Officer told our newsroom on condition of anonymity. 

Prisoners who are more affluent usually have their families provide food and supplies for them, which is allowed, but is searched by Prison Officers once it enters the compound.

A few days ago supplies were handed out to prisoners, according to the same officer. There is a no cellular phone policy but it is reported that some prisoners have cell phones and internet access which they use to communicate with family and loved ones, or allegedly give directions on other matters.

Not many fights or violence; Lockdown time enforced

Prisoners who are not considered high security risks are allowed out of their cells at various times. They use the time to attend skills classes provided by the Crown, play basketball, workout in the gym and use the time for other extra activities such as the prison band, the prison garden or doing woodwork.

Notwithstanding, there is a separation of some prisoners based on placement on the compound.

Each day, from 12:30PM to 1:30PM, there is a daily lock-down so Prison Officers and other personnel can take lunch or do general checks of the compound.

According to the same Prison Officer, there are no gangs like some regional or United States prisons, but “once you are cool and have a good relationship with other prisoners and staff you will be alright."

Different from USA prison life

Further, unlike USA prisons, there are no reports of homosexuality or male prisoners being raped by other male prisoners, although one 'infamous' prisoner is locked away in a cell alone. The Government, going back to the last Virgin Islands Party Administration, has set up classes in an effort to rehabilitate prisoners, leading to equivalent High School Diplomas and once they are out they are re-integrated into society.

There are no prison gear like US prisons and each prisoner is allowed to wear their own clothes. There is a prison laundry that includes a washer and dryer that is manned by the prisoners. Inmates are also allowed to send their clothes out to their family to be washed.

The legal system an issue

Many prisoners complain about the long delays in the courts and the frequent adjournment on their matters. It means that they are required to spend longer jail time, costing the state more money until their matter is called.

At the opening of the 2015 law year, Chief Justice of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Supreme Court, Dame Janice M. Pereira promised to cut back on long court delays. Most court observers claim that there has been little or no improvement in that area.

The government has also reactivated the Parole Board where eligible prisoners can see early release.

However, while the situation at HMP is no bed of roses, as being incarcerated is hardly ever a positive experience, it is still not as bad as other jurisdictions. 

21 Responses to “Life @ Her Majesty’s Prison, Balsam Ghut! Is there a food & supplies shortage?”

  • STAY FOCUS (07/12/2015, 16:04) Like (4) Dislike (3) Reply
    This is what the minister for sports have to look into but instead...................I will leave that.
  • pat (07/12/2015, 16:14) Like (32) Dislike (1) Reply
    Excellent written piece vino
  • Workin on the Chain Gang (07/12/2015, 17:07) Like (19) Dislike (13) Reply
    Three square meals should be fine. Prison should not be a comfortable place at all. But in BVI, poeple get spoil. Look at that horrid uniform and chain gang in U.S..even life is not great the prisoners should be thankful that they were imprisoned in BVI it could have been worse.
  • jimmy (07/12/2015, 18:27) Like (1) Dislike (3) Reply
    Many people gain high blood pressure . ,Dieabities and other sickness and the bathing water is horrible. My uncle use to complain on many occation.
  • wize up (07/12/2015, 19:19) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    food!!! what food ???? Jail house rock.....
  • Kim (07/12/2015, 20:34) Like (17) Dislike (1) Reply
    Their are in jail them lucky them getting 3 meals some of us out don't even get that let them stay out of jail them want a bed of rose
    • B S (07/12/2015, 21:28) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      cornbeef that's food too? Most of them family bring them food or else you will live like a dog in the guth
      • insider (08/12/2015, 09:34) Like (4) Dislike (2) Reply
        'Theres no reports of homosexual activities or male prisoners getting raped by other male prisoners'.of course these things wont g=be reported, because the BVI is a very small place and everybody like fi run them mouth and descriminate against homosexuals. the reality is there are homosexual activities going on in the BVI prison.
        • if u don't know now u know (08/12/2015, 12:35) Like (0) Dislike (3) Reply
          U sound like u used the get rape wen u was in the bvi prison
  • KEEP OUT (08/12/2015, 03:50) Like (47) Dislike (1) Reply
    You are in prison bro. Can't be the same like us who are out here. Stay away from trouble keep out of jail and you will get all the food and supplies you need
  • Concerned (08/12/2015, 05:37) Like (29) Dislike (0) Reply
    Prisoners are human too YES
    But they need to work to pay for their time up there , All the roads are overgrown after the rains .Brinv them out and CUT BUSH rather than petty contracts .Have any one done a study to say HOW MUCH IT COSTS government to feed / house /entertain each prisioner every day .We (bvi) need to get with d programme NO WONDER we broke. Take pattern off St Kitts prizion syste.
  • Just saying... (08/12/2015, 08:03) Like (14) Dislike (0) Reply
    Vino you good you got all kinds of insider
  • SB (08/12/2015, 09:30) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    there is nothing like your freedom deman
  • reality (08/12/2015, 11:03) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    Well Well, they got it good, because some of use are out free, have never committed an offense and we have eaten dry bread or bush tea for breakfast, so go sit down and shut up!
  • So? (08/12/2015, 11:29) Like (7) Dislike (2) Reply
  • $$$$$ (08/12/2015, 12:26) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Where the money gone?
  • Hmm (08/12/2015, 16:09) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    I didn't realize jail was suppose to be a place of luxury :/ on the contrary I always thought that it was a place for know....the kind of place that you will do anything in your power NOT to enter & if you do end up there for sure you keeping your nose clean to not go back
  • csy (09/12/2015, 15:11) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    all of um got cell phones and the guards fullly well know

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