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Monday 24 June 2019
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Commissioner of Prisons: Officers must be vigilant

Escape inquiry to be done in 30 days but…

Gerard Wilson
Gerard Wilson

COMMISSIONER of Prisons Gerard Wilson has instructed an assistant superintendent of prisons to complete an inquiry into the recent escape of eight prisoners from the Golden Grove Prison, Arouca, within 30 days but says officers need to do basics to maintain security.

Wilson, in an interview with Newsday yesterday, said the inquiry would not only serve to kick-start the process to possibly hold one or more prisons officers accountable for negligence or criminal misconduct, but also to identify flaws in the system and address them.

"My thing is not only culpability, but to look at what recommendations we can make coming out of this particular situation. It is not only about finding people guilty. That is one, but its also about getting recommendations based on what has gone wrong, and what we can do better, and what officers need to take heed of in light of what has transpired."

Eight prisoners escaped from the upper south wing of the Remand Yard prison facility in the early hours of May 15. Five were recaptured the same day and another one day later.

The last two escapees were recaptured by police in South Oropouche on Saturday. One man was arrested and questioned in connection with their escape at One Woodbrook Place on Thursday. He was released later that day.

On May 15, the men escaped using a hacksaw blade to cut through the steel bars of the cell.

Wilson said it remained unclear how the men got access to the blade since prisoners in Remand Yard did not work unless they requested to, and were not given tools. They may, however, come into contact with prisoners, or prisons officers, outside the Remand Yard facility, who have access to the tools.

"We have trade shops, we have YTEPP, we have plumbing, we have all these things happening. Sometimes (because of) carelessness, these things are left behind and then a convicted inmate may take it and then get it across to people in remand so there are a number of ways these people (can get access to tools)," Wilson said.

"This is what we're trying to fight against – officers who insist on doing the wrong thing. Also, for a level of vigilance, where you have these trade shops and so on. Sometimes tools are missed and people don't make reports.

Wilson added, however, that even with the implementation of all potential recommendations, there was the likelihood such situations could reoccur.

"The chain is as strong as its weakest link, and the commissioner, the executive could do everything possible to put security in place, all the checks and balances, but if officers lapse at any time or if they leave loopholes, these things will happen.

"They ask the question, what are we going to do different or what we going to do better. I am saying, if officers continue to be vigilant, then we will curb these issues. In prisons these things happen. They have escapes, they have suicides, they have riots. These things happen in prisons.

"However, we have been fortunate in Trinidad. We haven't had much issues but at the same time, the idea is for officers to be vigilant."

Wilson suggested there were officers in the system who fell short on the basic functions of their duties.

"In terms of flaws, since I joined the service, there are systems in place that allow for checks and balances. My point is that officers need to continue to do the basics in order to keep security in check. If you don't do the basics, you are liable to falter. That is what I'm saying.

According to Wilson, the assistant superintendent responsible for the inquiry will interview all eight escapees, in addition to all prisons staff on shift at the time of the escape.

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