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Monday 9 December 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Prison security ball in minister’s court

THE EDITOR: The deadly attacks on off-duty prison officers must be effectively addressed and in the quickest possible time.

There have been comments from certain ministers of government suggesting that prison officers are the authors of their own demise. This may not be necessarily so. Indeed, there would be a few officers and servants of the prison who would choose to dirty their hands.

What is being implied by the ministers is that should there be only clean hands in the prison service these murderous attacks on officers would not have occurred. This trend of thought demonstrates an absence of an in-depth study of the current prison environment, and sadly the comments were made in a season of grief and mourning.

Whenever people are housed together for a prolonged period, there would be adversity and conflict from time to time, as among them there would be people of different socio-economic backgrounds and of different political persuasions. As a consequence, there would be arguments, assaults, fights, and many reasons for the intervention of officers.

While there are quite a number of inmates who display good sound judgment in matters, there are others who have lost their moorings while in prison, stressed and having difficulty in coming to terms with the deprivation of their freedom. While there are several educated inmates in the prison population, there are many who are illiterate. While there are youths who are struggling through adolescence, there are those who are going through the developmental process admirably. There are many days of calm in the prisons and there are many days that are marred with turbulence.

There have always been a handful of inmates who were always in a stormy and confrontational relationship with prison officers. The problems arise when those inmates are released from prison prior to the resolution of issues with officers. Having been discharged from prison with “bad blood” the negative reactions will follow.

Trafficking in cell phones may not be a major facilitator in the unfortunate demise of prison officers, but steps should be taken to weed out those suspected of carrying out the illicit activity.

The prison administration has a task before it as disciplinary action cannot be taken against an officer based only on suspicion. It may be worthwhile considering having those traffickers seconded to other ministries as they are indeed big threats to prison security. No one wants a repeat of July 24, 2015. The logic is, if an officer would traffic in cell phones for the payment of 20 pieces of silver what would forbid him from taking in a loaded firearm if the price is right?

Quick action is needed in order to protect lives and to preserve the image of the Prison Service. Foreign assistance should be sourced to allow for electronic monitoring of men suspected of cell-phone trafficking. The Government has invested millions of dollars in acquiring equipment that would block cell-phone signals from leaving the prisons. Maybe the Government should seek international assistance to ensure the efficient working of those systems.

The ball is now in the court of our National Security Minister. I do hope it would be played with haste in the interest of prisons security.

DAVID O’NEAL, Chaguanas

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