Prison officers are concerned about severe overcrowding at the nation's prisons resulting from the large number of people arrested over the last few days during the state of emergency. A member of the Prisons Officers Association said in an interview yesterday that the current situation threatened to add an already chronic overcrowding problem. At present, he said, there are 11 inmates to a cell at the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca. "I strongly believe we cannot house the amount of people they are bringing into the prison...It is impossible," the spokesman said. "They should locate a building to use as a detention centre instead of bringing them to the prisons," he suggested.
The spokesman said a similar problem occurred earlier this year when vagrants were being taken off the streets, "and we had no facilities to deal with them." The prison spokesman also warned that there could be additional problems if rival gang members were placed in close proximity. "It will become volatile and violent," he said. "If they warring against each other outside, it wouldn't stop in here, or they could gang up and come against the officers." According to the prison officer, a small area at Golden Grove known as Guantanamo is used to house gang members. "The area is not big and we are supposed to have one inmate per cell...Now we can't do that, which causes overcrowding with the new guys coming in," he said.
"These people are detainees and the State must have detention centre for them." "The remand and convict sections are filled to capacity in Port-of-Spain and it will be like in the early 1900s. "We already have 11 people in a cell in Port-of-Spain." A total of 462 people have been detained for various offences since the state of emergency took effect last Sunday, according to Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs. Detainees include homicide suspects, gang members, as well as people held for breaching the curfew and other offences. On Thursday, 32 reputed gang members were denied bail when they appeared before a Port-of-Spain magistrate.