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Prisons want single-share database

Published: 
Sunday, December 3, 2017

Going beyond last week’s prison break, there needs to be the development of an integrated database comprising all arms of the criminal justice system—the Judiciary, the T&T Police Service (TTPS) and the T&T Prisons Service.

This will enable tracking of offenders from the time of arrest to the movement in and out the prisons—from within the prison walls to the courts.

Most importantly, it will allow authentication of documents upon verification via a computerised system that is also incorporated with a barcode reader, where a printed barcode on any physical document can be verified.

Last Monday, Vicky Boodram, 35, who is currently before the courts on fraud charges, staged a daring escape from the Women’s Prison at Golden Grove, Arouca, to attend an alleged “night court” session. She was accompanied by two police officers attached to the Court and Process Branch of the Northern Division. The two officers allegedly had stamped and signed documents which they used to facilitate her removal from the prison. Boodram was, however, recaptured at a house in Penal on Thursday at about 7 pm.

General Secretary of the Prisons Officers Association Gerard Gordon explained to the Sunday Guardian how easy the present system is to manipulate and disclosed that for years they have been lobbying for a “single-share database”.

“This is where the request for prisoners to come to court would come directly to the prison. It would then go to the police, who has the responsibility to bring them to the court and in this way the authenticity of any request via that network is in check,” Gordon said.

“This can be done through barcoding, in this age of technology where printed documents would have a bar code that when put under a bar code reader can be authenticated through that single-share database,” he added.

Gordon also suggested a unique number system, an assigned number when a person is arrested, “whether it be a file number, the case number of the court so that when they come to us they would not be given another number as it is now…that assigned number to the offender would now go straight in the database.”

He further explained that the database would include lots of information, as well as updated photos of the prisoner on a frequent basis as his or her features can change while incarcerated. "The features of Remand prisoners who are there for years changes, some may grow a beard, a dreadlocks hairstyle, gotten darker, lost weight, etc, so with this system digital photos would be mandated on a monthly basis. Also, whosoever logs into this system a unique identifier should be given so that this information would be recorded on the server—all of this in that verification process.”

Acting National Security Minister Stuart Young, during the post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday, said investigators were pursuing whether the “court documents” used in Boodram's escape originated within the judicial system and who authorised it.

Young also queried how someone could get hold of the stamp used in court documents.

 

Recommendations from UN prison handbook

According to the United Nations’ Prison Incident Management Handbook, it was revealed that in many prisons, staff members who are escorting a prisoner outside the prison are not provided with documentation or a photograph identifying the prisoner, although these may need to be provided to police should the prisoner escape.

•The handbook suggested that prior to conducting an external escort of a dangerous or high-security risk prisoner, a Threat Risk Assessment (TRA) should be completed by a senior prison officer.

•The TRA should consider: the consequences of the threat being realised (personal injury/seriousness and degree of harm, etc); the likelihood of risks based on past experience, the prisoner’s profile, etc; the escort location (crowded public place/remote location, etc); Basic external escort procedures should not change irrespective of the circumstances; or the security risk posed by the prisoner.

•Every TRA should determine how the escort is to be conducted, including: number of staff involved; escort purpose and destination; staff actions at the escort destination (hospital, court, etc.); search requirements; use of restraints and frequency of checks; communication and reporting frequency; escort times; type of transport and travel routes; documentation to be carried, including photographs; staff and prisoner clothing

criteria for terminating the escort and confidentiality of escort details.

“Corrections advisers should assist prison management in developing a TRA approach in planning all high-risk security escorts. This should form part of an ongoing review of prisoner escort practices, particularly in relation to high-risk prisoners,” the handbook stated.

 

Timeline on Vicky's escape, Monday November 27

 

4.30 pm—PC LeVon Sylvester picked up SRP Lisa Navarro at her Arouca home and told her she was needed to secure the release of an inmate at a female prison.

 

5.15 pm—The two arrived at the Women’s Prison in a marked Nissan X-Trail and presented prisons officers with what appeared to be a court order requesting that Vicky Boodram appear before a Tunapuna magistrate.

 

Shortly after 6 pm—CCTV footage showed Sylvester parking the police vehicle at the back of the Tunapuna Police Station. There were no signs of Boodram.

 

Therefore, within 30 minutes, Boodram was taken out of her cell and handed over to the police officers, clearly showing that there was not enough time for proper checks and balances and to verify the authenticity of the documents produced by the officers with the court.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM UN PRISON HANDBOOK

According to the United Nations’ Prison Incident Management Handbook, it was revealed that in many prisons, staff members who are escorting a prisoner outside the prison are not provided with documentation or a photograph identifying the prisoner, although these may need to be provided to police should the prisoner escape.
• The handbook suggested that prior to conducting an external escort of a dangerous or high-security risk prisoner, a Threat Risk Assessment (TRA) should be completed by a senior prison officer.
• The TRA should consider: the consequences of the threat being realised (personal injury/seriousness and degree of harm, etc); the likelihood of risks based on past experience, the prisoner’s profile, etc; the escort location (crowded public place/remote location, etc); Basic external escort procedures should not change irrespective of the circumstances; or the security risk posed by the prisoner.
• Every TRA should determine how the escort is to be conducted, including: number of staff involved; escort purpose and destination; staff actions at the escort destination (hospital, court, etc.); search requirements; use of restraints and frequency of checks; communication and reporting frequency; escort times; type of transport and travel routes; documentation to be carried, including photographs; staff and prisoner clothing criteria for terminating the escort and confidentiality of escort details.
“Corrections advisers should assist prison management in developing a TRA approach in planning all high-risk security escorts. This should form part of an ongoing review of prisoner escort practices, particularly in relation to high-risk prisoners,” the handbook stated.

 

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