PRESIDENT of the Prison Officers Association (POA) Ceron Richards says the motivation levels of officers have “plummeted to an all-time low.”
“You would appreciate a number of our officers have been experiencing a number of challenges both internally and in the external environment,” he said. “A number of officers have been assaulted and even killed, last year in particular.”
He was speaking on Sunday evening at the I Support Our Service (ISOS) TT Prison Service Launch Programme at the Commissioner of Prisons’ Residence, Golden Grove, Arouca.
He said this has placed the Prisons Service in a very peculiar situation where the service often has to wonder how to motivate all officers to provide a safe TT. He said the POA has always advocated for all citizens to get on board and support officers “to ensure we have the wherewithal to advance the interests of the State.”
He added: “And here it is we are here as a result of someone listening to our cries, listening to our plea. Listening to all of the situations and all the challenges we are facing.”
Richards said the service was now partnered with the business community and corporate citizens through ISOS, led by its patron Nicole Dyer-Griffith, wife of the Commissioner of Police.
In her speech, Dyer-Griffith asked those present to think of the many officers who were killed in service to the nation.
“Are we doing enough? Are we giving the men and women who serve as officers of the TT Prison Service the respect and the regard they duly deserve? Theirs is a thankless duty faithfully committed every single day. There’s is a sacrifice made every single day for which they can expect very little in return, and yet for which they risk their lives in the performance of their duties. And it is now time to change that.”
She said it was time to give due respect to the members of the Prison Service and for the corporate sector and the public to acknowledge the uniform and look upon them with high regard.
“It is not just the patriotic thing to do; it is the human thing do.”
She said it was her absolute pleasure to add the Prison Service to ISOS after first introducing it to the police (in December 2018). She explained the three main pillars of ISOS were corporate sponsorship, citizen awareness and rehabilitation and reform.
“We are very much cognisant that we are dealing with a number of lives here – not only the lives of the prison officers, but also the lives of those behind bars. And it is the responsibility of those who are there to manage the prisons to ensure that they do what they can to encourage rehabilitation and to encourage reformation to limit the rate of recidivism, as we have seen this rate going in a cyclical manner.”
She said with ISOS the 2,500 members of the prison service will be recognised as never before.
Last October, Supt Wayne Jackson was shot and killed outside his home in Malabar, bringing the number of prison officers killed to 22 in the last 28, years according to the POA. On October 17, two and a half weeks later, prison officer Darren Francis was shot and killed outside his home in Princes Town.