Mon | May 27, 2024

Operations back to normal at Horizon Remand Centre

Correctional officers took break to register discontent over compensation review; high-profile cases postponed

Published:Friday | April 19, 2024 | 12:12 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Arlington Turner
Arlington Turner

OPERATIONS HAVE returned to normal at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in Kingston after correctional officers took a break from their regular duties yesterday to register their dissatisfaction surrounding their compensation review.

The correctional officers’ action disrupted high-profile matters at the Supreme Court and the delivery of food items to prisoners from loved ones.

The action was sparked by the Ministry of Finance’s cancellation of a meeting with the officers, last Wednesday, which was abruptly cancelled without any alternative date being fixed.

However, Arlington Turner, chairman of the Jamaica Federation of Corrections, said the officers resumed duties yesterday afternoon after they were informed that the finance ministry had tentatively set a date for April 25.

At the same time, he pointed out that the action was not an industrial action. He described what occurred as the officers demanding action from the ministry and to get a new date for the meeting.

“We have not signed an agreement yet as it relates to the compensation review, but we have been in continuous discussions with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Security because there are some issues that we need to sort out before we sign a head of agreements.

“Where the ministry would have wanted us to start, it is not acceptable, and we would have indicated that from early. After the review was done, what came out of it for the correctional officers was very insulting, and we were not prepared to accept it,” Turner explained.

He added that there are several outstanding issues to be addressed and that this is the final of the three years in which they have to sign off on the compensation review. Given the urgency, Turner shared that the federation had informed the ministry via a letter of the need to sign off on the agreement and continue discussing the outstanding issues, including reclassification. But he said the ministry ignored the letter, and instead, scheduled a meeting for last Wednesday.

“That was the meeting that everybody was expecting would be the last one and that we would take a decision, but it was cancelled abruptly, and this is why the officers would be so displeased, and you did not say anything about a follow-up date, and so we stand by our officers in demanding answers,” Turner said.

According to the federation chairman, correctional officers were placed in the protective service group, which included the security forces and firefighters, but coming out of the compensation review, the wardens, who were on par with the police, fell way below their previous position.

However, he said some progress had been made over the last set of meetings but that the federation had been informed that no further adjustment could be made as the job description of the correction officers needed to be adjusted.

In the meantime, he stressed that security at the institution was not compromised because all the officers were present at work even though they were not carrying out normal functions.

Meanwhile, the situation at Horizon forced an adjournment of the Omar Collymore murder trial until Monday.

Collymore and his alleged accomplices - Michael Adams, Dwayne Pink, and Shaquilla Edwards - are currently on trial for the double murder of Simone Campbell-Collymore and Winston Walters on January 2, 2018.

The Clansman Gang trial, scheduled for a plea and case-management hearing, was also postponed until July 11 after only nine of the 23 accused men were brought before the court.

The 23 defendants, including the alleged gang leader, Tesha Miller, are charged under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act (anti-gang legislation) and are alleged to have participated in several criminal activities between August 5, 2017, and August 22, 2022, in St Catherine as members of the Clansman Gang.

The charges against them include murder, conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravation, illegal possession of firearm and illegal possession of ammunition.