Building 13 inmate responds to prison officers' claims: Don't blame prisoners for murders

Dennis Pulchan
Dennis Pulchan

PRISON OFFICERS who are being murdered indiscriminately are "playing victims" one inmate at the Wayne Jackson Building at the Maximum Security Prison claims.

In a letter to his attorneys on Tuesday, Rajaee Ali said officers are provoking a situation and then playing victims.

In a three page document, Ali highlighted each wrong done to him and other inmates housed at Building 13.

The letter came after the murders of two prison officers assigned to the building.

Last Friday, Trevor Serrette was killed at his fruit stall in Valencia and Nigel Jones was gunned down in front of his daughter at the Fyzabad Taxi Stand in Siparia on Monday.

On Tuesday night, a prison officer was shot at in Tunapuna. An off-duty police man managed to shoot one of the attackers who is now warded under police guard. The police officer was also shot in the gun battle.

In his letter, Ali claimed prison officers threatened inmates, refused to give them time outside of their cells, brought food late, allowed them to bathe less than usual and assaulted them. He claimed that masked men told them hours after the killing of Serrette, they too will die.

On Monday, Ali claimed: “Food was brought in separate boxes with individual’s names placed on the boxes, therefore, men did not trust this as we know we are high-risk inmates and so we did not eat this.”

He said that day inmates were not allowed to wash soap off their bodies and made to return to their cells as they were. Two men were also beaten that day by masked officers.

He claimed inmates were left in total darkness for some three hours while masked men roamed the corridors beating inmates near the gates. Ali said the cells were hot as the “blower” was taken off and inmates had no drinking or running water for a day.

Ali contends that the solutions are simple, prison officials should call a media conference and confess that officers are trying to kill inmates.

“The public does not understand that remanded means innocent until proven guilty. We still have rights as do normal civilians while we await our matter being heard.”

Rajaee Ali

Ali's attorney Criston Williams on Wednesday wrote Denise Pitcher executive director at Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), asking that they visit the prison.

Williams also suggested that President Paula-Mae Weekes, the Prime Minister and president of the Law Association Sophia Chote be among those who visit the prison to see, first-hand, the conditions in which the inmates are living.

Williams told Newsday that apart from the visit, one of the things inmates want is conjugal visits. He said that was to allow inmates to “ease their stress” from being on remand for years.

Pulchan: Work continues as usual

Newsday contacted Prison Commissioner Dennis Pulchan on the claims. Pulchan said the focus of the instructions should not be claims of abuse, but Ali’s regret that a child was harmed when a prison officer was murdered.

Ali wrote: “We sympathise with the officers who died, especially the little girl but that does not give the prison authority to play judge, jury and executioner for something that is being investigated by the police.”

Pulchan added that there was no absenteeism at the prisons outside of the usual sick-leave applications with his officers “managing.”

Prison Officers Association President Ceron Richards on Tuesday called for a meeting with Dr Rowley. He said the lives of 13 prison officers had been threatened by criminals as a result of alleged mis-treatment in jails.

Both Richards and Rowley did not respond to calls and messages on Wednesday.

Williams also sent the Registrar of the Judiciary a pre-action protocol letter requesting a timeframe for when the transcripts of Ali’s preliminary inquiry will be sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Williams opined that there was undue delay in the process, contrary to the Indictable Offences Act and gave the Registrar two weeks to respond.

Ali and others were committed to stand trial for the murder of senior counsel Dana Seetahal last year.


"Building 13 inmate responds to prison officers’ claims: Don’t blame prisoners for murders"

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