SOME inmates get wealthy in jail, where they use cell phones to carry out criminal activities beyond prison walls, Public Utilities Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said in support of a bill to allow the wire-tapping of prisons and prison vans.
He spoke on the Interception of Communications (Amendment) Bill 2020 on Friday in the House of Representatives.
“Money gets into the prison, and gets out too. They have prisoners today using technology and coming out of jail not as millionaires, but with plenty money, extorting people on the outside.”
He said some inmates pressure their poor mother and poor aunt to send them $200-$300 in phone cards, and the credit is then sold to fellow inmates.
“Fellows coming out rich, with property! This is real! Carrying on their criminal enterprise in jail.”
Hinds lauded the bill as letting the authorities intercept such phone calls and use this information as evidence in law courts. He said the bill has the safeguard of the involvement of the courts.
Earlier Hinds lamented corrupt attorneys.
“The truth is some lawyers are criminals. I know two in TT today, without calling a name, who are before the criminal court for criminal conduct. One was known to be involved in matters – I ain’t calling no name – involving a dead prisoner and a cut-and-paste operation.”
Hinds said an interception of relevant phone calls would have helped in these cases.
“These measures are designed to give the police and the SSA and law enforcement the power to get behind the tricks and the curves and the schemes and the plots of those who want to hurt us in TT, for money’s sake or political power’s sake. What is wrong with that?”
He hit the Opposition for acting on legislation to tie the hands of the police, despite taking every opportunity to complain about crime.
Hinds seemed to suggest some attorneys advise inmates on how to evade police wire-tapping.
"The criminals are no fools. In some cases they are properly well advised by criminal lawyers describing the practice and sometimes the individuals."
A split House voted by 19 votes "for" to 12 votes "against" to pass an amended version of the bill by just a simple majority, not the original special majority. It will head back to the Senate.