President of the Prison Officers' Association of T&T, Rajkumar Ramroop, has said that prison officers are concerned with the number of prisoners entering the system during the state of emergency. "Yes, prison officers are concerned with respect to the number of prisoners coming into the system because we have already been faced with a overcrowded situation and it would place a further burden into the system," Ramroop said yesterday, as police officers and army embarked on its assault against criminal and criminal gangs throughout the country. Ramroop did not say what were some of the complaints discussed with administration and deputy commissioner of prisons Martin Martinez recently. As of yesterday over 500 arrests were made.
So far, Ramroop said there had not been any complaints of tension among incarcerated gang leaders and members, promising that if this should happen prison officers will act accordingly. Ramroop could not say how many of those arrested were locked up in the nations' prisons. Stressing that his officers have been managing since the state of emergency, Ramroop said many of the men arrested had been being detained at police stations. Under prisons regulations, Ramroop said National Security Minister John Sandy has the power to send prisoners elsewhere, if the jails become overcrowded. During the 1990 attempted coup, Ramroop said the Chaguaramas Convention Centre was utilised as a prison facility to detain looters and criminals.
"There are other options that we can look at." In a state of emergency, Ramroop said a number of things take places, including the suspension of vacation leave of prisons officers. Also officers who were expected to take special leave will also be called out. There are approximately 2,200 prisons officers in the service. Ramroop said another 600 prisons officers who are being trained, Ramroop said can be called out, if the need arises. "This brings the question of prison reform. For years the association has been advocating for this. The time has come for the Government to relook and reassess the entire prison system with a view of improving it."
Insisting that the role of prison officer was to assist law and order, Ramroop said while everything was under control, should things get out of hand, certainly, we (association) will advocate on behalf of our membership." Ramroop said while politicians have made calls, stressing what was correct or not with respect to the state of emergency, "That is not our position to debate." The prison officers' job, Ramroop said was to ensure that prisoners are treated with dignity based on international standards, which has always presented a challenge to the prison association and the Government. "The current situation clearly indicates the vital role that prison officers play in crime reduction and public safety."