EVIDENCE MOUNTS daily that Trinidad and Tobago’s penal system is in utter disarray.
How is it possible that the most famous fraud accused in recent memory could walk free of the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca? How is it possible that this could take place on the same day a man charged with murder escapes from the Arima Magistrates Court? How are these incidents possible in the wake of the 2015 deadly jailbreak from the Port of Spain jail? Our criminals are giving Harry Houdini a run for his money.
Vicky Boodram’s escape bears all the hallmarks of a well-planned operation in which key officials may have been oiled over time. The Ministry of National Security’s clumsy instruction to its staff to be on the lookout for Boodram, hours after she had already escaped, does little to restore confidence. In fact, it serves only to deepen ridicule.
Boodram’s escape in particular is a blow to the criminal justice system at a time when confidence in the State’s ability to detect and prosecute white-collar crime is at an all-time low.
Furthermore, with brutal murders being recorded daily, the last thing citizens need is to hear tales of great escapes from police custody — whether by people accused of fraud or those charged with murder.
Already, certain physical factors have been identified as contributing to Hamilton Small’s escape from the Arima Magistrates Court. Yet, if these factors could so quickly be assessed, why were they not addressed in the first place by the relevant authorities? Why were systems not put in place to minimise risks posed by the narrow parking space at the court?
Jailbreaks are not only an affront to the rule of law, they endanger the public, police and prison officers who supervise the incarcerated. The devastating impact on the morale of the women and men who protect and serve us cannot be overstated.
Police officers pursuing criminals cannot function properly if our jail cells have permeable bars. And prison officers, who already face what is perceived to be a campaign of violence against their own, cannot work effectively if the people they guard can so easily come after them. And if their colleagues are compromised.
Boodram and Small must be recaptured. Those responsible, whether through complicity or ineptitude, must be held accountable. We cannot have a repeat of the lack of formal sanctions which accompanied the 2015 jailbreak.
If those responsible are incarcerated, it is hoped they will remain behind bars. That is the least that needs to happen if our penal system is to recover from this comedy of errors.