Prisons Commissioner: ‘Corona’ riot a ploy to escape

Acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan speaks to the media on Wednesday, one day after prisoners rioted at the remand section of the Arouca prison.       - Vidya Thurab
Acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan speaks to the media on Wednesday, one day after prisoners rioted at the remand section of the Arouca prison. - Vidya Thurab

Acting Commissioner of Prisons, Dennis Pulchan, says the riot at the remand section of the Golden Grove prison in Arouca on Tuesday, was an elaborate escape attempt and not about covid19 fears.

At a media conference at the prison on Wednesday, Pulchan said, “The breach on the southern wall, an inmate actually went through and had to be stopped by use of firearms. Again, a second attempt was made after they breached the roof and, again, we had to use firearms to stop them. So yes, I can safely say that is a safe suggestion."

Prisoners clashed on Tuesday with a joint task force of prison officers, soldiers, officers of the Special Operations Response Team, Northern Division officers and fire officers.

On Tuesday, Pulchan said an investigation into the riot was initiated, however, prisoners took to Facebook, streaming live during the riot, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus (covid19) and other issues. Newsday was told the prisoners were being fed at about 11 am when two prisoners created a disturbance.

The quelling of the riot and the transfer of some 240 prisoners to a new section ended around 2 am on Wednesday, Pulchan said. He added that in the end, 12 inmates were injured “to varying degrees.” One was shot in the leg after he managed to escape the enclosed area and into the open space and two senior prison officers were injured with one sustaining a broken jaw.

Asked what, if anything, can be done to prevent any re-occurrences, Pulchan said it will be foolhardy to think it will never reoccur, but all steps are being taken to ensure it does not.

“This is a bionic environment and emotions change every single day. It’s 38 years I am on the job and I have seen four or five riots. It is not predicted, it can’t be. It is just momentum that takes place. We have enhanced security and placed them in strategic locations. We are getting intel from sources and are doing everything possible to prevent a re-occurrence.”

Pulchan said he now has to find accommodation for the 240 inmates who burst through adjoining cells in their escape bid. After assessing the damage caused, Pulchan said locks were destroyed, a perimeter wall and roof were breached. The southern wing is no longer fit for occupation. He added that an assistant prisons commissioner will lead the investigation into the escape attempt and, after reviewing footage, a few suspects have been identified. They face a series of possible charges including assault, attempted escape and destruction of state property.

Regarding a possible covid19 outbreak, Pulchan said all who enter the prison are being screened with thermal scanners. The prison will also submit to the government, policies in place to deal with a confirmed case should the situation arise. He said he understands the possible impact of the virus in the prison, but added that all is being done to prevent an outbreak.

“I am hoping we have no cases right now. I am being positive. It is not foolproof. We are closely observing the inmates and officers at the infirmary to identify flu-like symptoms.”


"Prisons Commissioner: ‘Corona’ riot a ploy to escape"

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