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Prisons Association on latest murder: State has failed to protect officers
The failure of the State to implement legislation to ensure the safety of prisons officers has led to the murder of a dedicated officer and the Prisons Officers Association (POA) is now threatening to head to court to force affirmative action.
Another immediate solution, according to an executive member of the POA, was to let police officers be responsible for remand inmates.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Gerard Gordon, general secretary of the association, said one of the things discussed was the removal of remanded inmates from the care of the prisons to the police.
The association member added that was done throughout other Commonwealth regions. The member said the association would also be seeking to meet with two United States Senators who took a bill to Congress similar to what they were requesting and were successful in having it become law. The officer added that the bill came about after a prisons officer was murdered in the US.
Speaking earlier at the association’s office on Railway Road, Arouca, head of the association Ceron Richards said his organisation had already met with Senior Counsel Ramesh Maharaj and later this week would sign off on an affidavit giving the all clear to begin legal proceedings against the State to force the implementation of legislation to protect prisons officers.
Richards said the action was necessary after successive governments failed to address the issues regarding the safety of officers.
"The State is setting us up and it is as though the murders have been accepted. Prisons officers are being set up in Trinidad and Tobago. The persons who are elected every five years to implement laws and policies to shape the cultural directions are not doing their job," Richards said.
He added that rather than taking a look at themselves politicians have sought to place the blame on officers. Richards said there could have been two prisons officers killed yesterday after the home of another officer was shot at on Sunday night.
“We will reach the stage where the Government will have to look for people to man the prisons. Prisons officers are being killed and their blood spilled, this cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.
Gordon said he was brought to tears after learning of the murder of Fitzalbert Victor Jr. He added that rogue officers were not gunned down so the issue of Victor being a target because he was in cahoots with criminals within the prison system was foolishness.
He complained about the snail’s pace at which trials of prisoners were being heard as one of the main factors which led inmates to become agitated. In turn, he said, the inmates took out their frustration on officers.
“The remand population is bursting at the seams again, even after transferring a number of remandees to the Maximum Security Prison, we are bordering at 1,100 mark in Golden Grove Prison again.
“Officers are losing their lives simply because they are part of a system that is ineffective, heartless and is setting them up, putting them in place, and I am begging anyone to tell me different,” Gordon said.
Richards added that a prisons officer being killed was an attack on the country and its freedom. He added that law enforcement was one of the main institutions and apparatus and when that was attacked it was a sign that the State was failing.
“I left school in 1988 and hearing in class prisons officers being shot at. Since then to now, it's decades passed and you are telling me not one single legislative intervention by any administration in T&T, yet in the US one correctional officer was killed and in weeks Congress responds?
“In T&T 30 years can pass and not one single parliamentary response? Something has to be wrong. We are in a failed State,” Richards added.