President of the Prison Officers Association (POA) Ceron Richards is warning the public and the government that the absence of a working alarm system at the Golden Grove Maximum Security Prison in Arouca could have fatal consequences for both officers and prisoners.
Speaking with reporters at a press conference at the Prisons Sports Club, Arouca, a short distance away from the prison, on Thursday, Richards said despite repeated assurances from the Ministry of National Security over the last year and six months, the prison is no closer to being equipped with the system.
Richards said contrary to promises by National Security Minister Stuart Young at a meeting over a year ago, sources within the ministry told him no contract had been awarded to any company for installation of an alarm.
He also called on Young to clarify whether this was true and when the system would be implemented.
"We don't know who is telling the truth, because the minister is saying there is a contract, and other sources of his very ministry are saying that there is none.
"This has life-threatening implications. Officers are complaining on a daily basis that their lives are compromised because they can't raise an alarm, and that is unheard of in any part of the world.
"Imagine, the smallest parlour has alarms and cameras, but the Maximum Security Prison, which is supposed to be a high-security facility, doesn't have one. That in itself is alarming."
Citing an incident at the prison earlier this month when several inmates were stabbed during a fight, Richards said while nobody died, prison officers could have responded faster and would be better prepared to contain the situation if an alarm system was in place.
"The officer who was first to respond barely escaped with his life.
"It's almost as if they are waiting for some catastrophe to happen at the prison where someone ends up dead before they decide to do something about it."
Richards also complained that prison officers were being taken for granted by the government as they were part of the protective services and were required to report for duty whether or not adequate resources were available.
Newsday contacted Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan, but he declined to comment.
Responding to Newsday's questions via WhatsApp, Young said he understood the officers' concerns about having a working alarm and would follow up on the situation to ensure the prisons are given the resources needed to safely house inmates.
He also said security cameras and alarms had been approved for installation.
"From day one I have been concerned about proper use of technology at the prisons," he said. "The use of CCTV and alarms are part of this.
"The Cabinet has approved both CCTV, alarms and more at prisons.
"I am aware that certain work has been completed at Golden Grove and have asked the permanent secretaries at National Security to follow up on getting all of the work done."
Young said upgrading the prison system remained a top priority for his ministry and vowed to get the work done.