And so it continues. The seemingly never-ending cycle of violence involving prison officers and prisoners. In this vicious war the real prisoners are not the men and women behind bars. Nor are they the officers who must risk their lives daily. The real prisoners are the law-abiding members of the public who are now endangered by this unacceptable deterioration of our national security environment. The State must act.
The brutal murder of prison officer Devendra Boodooram, 45, on Friday afternoon was yet another shocking breach of security involving the Port-of-Spain jail. We have to understand the context.
This Port-of-Spain facility was the scene of the deadly jailbreak of 2015. Since that incident, there have been multiple scares: questions over the custody chain of keys, reports and whispers of plots, at least one short-lived escape, and leaks of video footage from inside the jail showing violence between inmates, abuse of power by officers and contraband items. What is really going on at Frederick Street?
The argument for the immediate relocation of the jail has never been stronger. Friday’s murder of Boodooram took place in the middle of rush hour on one of the busiest streets in the capital. It happened just outside a school: St Mary’s College. Not far away was Scott House, the base of the Elections and Boundaries Commission; the Living Water Community – a religious organisation which is also the sole entity in the country authorised to deal with refugees; the National Museum; as well as several government departments and businesses.
If the State cannot guarantee security in relation to the jail, it must close the facility forthwith before a member of the public is harmed.
It is for the law enforcement authorities to apprehend those responsible for Boodooram’s death. It is lamentable that despite the alarm being raised last Friday, officials were unable to prevent the attacker from striking. Nor were they able to apprehend the person as they reportedly fled to Charford Courts.
These failures demonstrate the true extent of the danger now faced by the public. Any people in the vicinity of the jail or Charford Courts last Friday could have easily been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Unacceptable.
Prison officers have shown remarkable bravery and patriotism by returning to work as normal on Saturday. But that will not be enough to end this cycle of death which must be brought under control.