Plot to privatise prison?

President of the Prison Officers’ Association Ceron Richards. -
President of the Prison Officers’ Association Ceron Richards. -

HEAD of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) Ceron Richards said he feels the current health and security crises facing prisons are the direct result of years of mismanagement and neglect from governments past and present.

He even suggested that a larger plot was at play in which forces were deliberately trying to sabotage the prison system to have it privatised.

Speaking with Newsday on Wednesday, Richards said facilities at the prisons were woefully inadequate to effectively treat an outbreak of coronavirus behind bars and the resulting unrest among inmates.

He said while Prison Commissioner Dennis Pulchan was doing his best to manage the situation, the blame should be placed on the government, which he accused of working as a “constructive mafia” to destabilise the prison system so it could be privatised.

“It’s almost as if they want this prison service to fail. It’s almost as if this is all a part of some constructive design, by withholding support and having the service to fail, to give someone a contract.

“Maybe the end result will be to outsource our service to someone’s friend or family. The business interest in crime is one of our biggest dangers in TT.

“We have come to a conclusion that the State is really involved in constructive mafia to allow the prison service to fail and starve the prisons of equipment and resources, then maybe they can make the case to privatise the prison service or its operations. It’s a big game going on.”

Citing the use of private security firms to transport inmates to and from prisons, Richards said prison officers have called repeatedly on the government to buy prison vehicles for transport without success.

He said to date there were problems with CCTV cameras at prisons and called on the Prime Minister to make clear his plans for the prison service over the next five years.

Contacted for comment on Wednesday, National Security Minister Stuart Young denied Richards’ accusations and said while he understood the challenges facing the prison service, it was not helpful to make such accusations.

“I understand that Mr Richards must be under much pressure.

"There is absolutely no thought or intention to privatise the prison system as is being conjured by Mr Richards. I have worked very closely with the Prison Service at all levels, including the Prison Officer sAssociation.
"It is very counterproductive to make wild accusations and allegations that have absolutely no merit. I am personally in daily communication with Mr Pulchan, the acting Commissioner of Prisons, as we work to secure the prisons and deal with the difficulties associated with positive covid19 cases.”

Young also said government has been addressing various infrastructural issues at the prison up to the outbreak of the virus and continued to work with all stakeholders to ensure the safety of prison officers and inmates.

“From very early o’clock, when the country began dealing with covid19, the prison service created a parallel system to deal with positive covid19 cases and even quarantine facilities. The prison system is a complex one, where for various security reasons certain inmates cannot be put in close proximity, and there is always limited space.”

Newsday contacted Pulchan for comment on videos purporting unrest among inmates but he declined to comment.

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