National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds yesterday revealed the extent of the “jailhouse economy” within the prison system. He said most of the inmates charged with murder are known gang members who have “serious influence” in their respective communities and in some cases across the country.
He said prison officers are seen as oppressors.
“It’s not a tea party in there. The people in there are alleged to have committed nasty crimes and have no regard for humans, law, mother, father... they rude!”
He said the “jailhouse economy” involves hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Big businesses are run from inside the jail through their friends and illegal communications. It’s an ongoing battle to deal with illegal communications, some of which have to do with calling of shots on the outside, get this one dead, or get that one dead,” he told the Senate
As a result, there are victims on the outside, businessmen against whom extortion is exerted and funds enter a bank account. He said when some prisoners get out of jail, there are cars, businesses, property and money and more influence “and the beast is getting bigger and fatter.”
He said 16 prison officers had been murdered in the last ten years, allegedly due to “hits” ordered from behind prison walls. Between January 2021 and December 2022 some 88 prison officers reported being threatened by inmates.
Hinds said the struggle to deal with illegal communication continues and technology and other efforts invested in this effort had “limited, but let me say some measure of impact.”
“I give you the assurance the state at the moment is continuing its efforts to ensure the illegal communications are a thing of the past. We continue that struggle,” he said.
There is also the issue of some prison officers who are “weakly, shamefully” allowing themselves to become mules either out of fear or complicity as the jailhouse economy “generates plenty, plenty plenty money,” Hinds said.
“A cigarette sells for $100, a phone call also. Many mothers, girlfriends and aunts outside the prison spend a lot, a lot, of money. One mother said her son always wants $1,000 on a phone card or for the cafeteria, but she found it was being used for other reasons.”