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Rethink prisons contraband situation

Monday, April 21, 2014

Last Tuesday, an inmate was held returning to Golden Grove Facility from court with a knapsack holding 32 cellphones, 29 packs of cigarettes, 22 cellphone chargers and headsets, six packs of wrapping paper, three lighters and 200 grammes of marijuana. Last week, the Prisons Officers Association was bracing for trouble within the prison walls. Justice Minister Emmanuel George was quick to dismiss such concerns as “presumptuous.”


The contents of the knapsack, costly outside of prison walls, represented a massive haul when translated into the cost of contraband behind bars. As a guide for those unfamiliar with prison life, a single cigarette sells for as much as $10 behind bars, with a pack ranging in price between $50 and $100. Cellphones, chargers and marijuana cost far more.


As far back as 2011, former inmate Wayne Chance of Vision on Mission, a prisoner way station for the recently released, called attention to the trade, pointing out that the courts and police stations were key points in the transfer of these goods. Last week, representatives of police and prisons officers seemed stunned and puzzled by the presence of the well-stocked knapsack, apparently all too willing to dismiss it at an isolated instance and an aberration in the prisons system instead of the well-travelled and organised trade route that it is.