Prison officers are angry over the hosting of a show featuring motor bike riders and scantily dressed women at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) last weekend.
The show was apparently sanctioned by Prison Commissioner Sterling Stewart, but officers yesterday questioning the reasoning behind it after no extra security was put in place and the event regressed into a striptease at one point.
Some officers, who spoke to the T&T Guardian on condition of anonymity, lay the blame on a senior officer they accused of organising the "show" with the help of a "high profile inmate."
The MSP is used to house detainees convicted of murder, but prison officers said "no additional security measures were put in place for the show, which was in clear breach of prison protocol." They said at times the show "turned into a striptease, as the scantily clad women took off their tops."
A senior officer said when questions were raised about how such a show could be allowed, they were told it was done "to ease the tension of the inmates."
Contacted on the issue yesterday, Stewart confirmed the event had his blessing.
He said the display was one way of being creative and innovative in treating with the rehabilitation and restoration of inmates. He denied claims that a senior colleague organised the show with the help of an inmate, calling it "mischief."
"I know about it. They want us to lock them (inmates) up in the prison and throw away the key. We are preparing for integration into society and we have to be creative and find innovative ways to treat with their reintegration into the environment," he said.
Stewart said he was also angry with the negativity instead of highlighting the good features of the event and called on members of the public and prison officers to take the "log out of their eye." (Quotation from the book of Matthew)
He said an offer was made by officers for a free motorbike display and the inmates selected were those working with the prison officers for a number of years who had no challenges or issues.
"We have programmes for the health, the heart and the hands and it was free of charge."
Stewart said senior staff took into consideration all safety and other assessments before holding the programme.
"We not running a slave factory as some people think," he said, adding he will always allow programmes that could lead inmates to change their ways and dispel the darkness.
"There was safety and security. Protocols were in place and it was completed and they enjoyed it. It was all part of the Christmas in building relationships," he said.
He said the prison supervisor was also satisfied with the dress code of the women.
"He was satisfied with the attire and he knows the dress code. Change does cause a level of discomfort and resistance. I am here to touch and save lives."
Also contacted yesterday, Prison Officers Association president Ceron Richards confirmed he had heard about the event, noting he was in Miami when an officer called him about what was happening. Having just returned to the country, however, he said he wanted to get more information about the show.
But Richards said "no show like that could have taken place without the authorisation of the Commissioner of Prisons Sterling Stewart and he would need to explain: What was the event about? What was it geared to achieve? And what security arrangements were put in place?"
Richards said the hosting of the event "was not discussed with my members. Officers told me they came to work and were shocked to find out what was happening. That is totally against the norm."
He said "a lot of officers complained about it in terms of security breaches. The Commissioner needs to clear the air because I could not have seen something like this happening."
Officers gave the name of the senior officer they claimed organised the event, but efforts to contact him were unsuccessful. Officers said their seniors told them that "they giving prisoners special things to ensure officers are not killed."