The Prison Officers’ Association says it has noted with concern, the apparent neglect of the Prison Service by the Ministry of National Security and by extension the Government.
In a statement yesterday, the association said the Prisons Service as fittingly stated by Professor Ramesh
Deosaran is being treated as the “Cinderella of National Security” and while the other arms of National Security can boast of the acquisition of high-tech vehicles, equipment, new facilities and upgraded uniforms, the Prisons Service is being starved of the basic resources to execute its mandate.
The association said the deliberate or constructive sidelining of the Service has resulted in the progressive degradation of its infrastructure at all facilities.
It said the The Tobago Prison is on the verge of being eroded into the sea, the Port- of- Spain Prison was amply described by Justice Gobin in 2008, who said, and we quote, “that the conditions at the Port of Spain Prisons is not so different from those experienced by our forefathers who suffered the atrocities of the slave trade as well as the indentureship”.
“Sadly, this situation has been exacerbated since then, with severe overcrowding at our remanded facilities which are also infested with pigeons, cockroaches and rats, facilitates the spread of communicable diseases such as leptospirosis, chicken pox and tuberculosis. Additionally, our security systems remain porous, obsolete and in some cases absent,” the association said.
It said short staffing, especially at the Remand Prison, poor lighting in and around our facilities and dilapidated fencing have been noted as factors that contributed to escapes.
“The nations “newest” prison, the Maximum Security Prison is far from new or immune to problems which compromises its operations on a daily basis. A non-existent alarm system, water woes that requires inmates to use buckets to flush toilets/bathe and a litany of issues has decreased its operational efficiency and increased the risk officers’ face while carrying out their duties. Accommodations for officers on duty is inadequate and lacking standards much like those who are imprisoned,” the association said.
“Our transportation fleet is in tatters and our garage technicians are forced to repair discarded vehicles that have been handed down from other arms of the protective services and other ministries to bolster our transportation requirements. Drivers are compelled to operate vehicles that have obvious breaches.”
It said prison officers who also are consistently denied accoutrements according to terms and conditions, such as uniforms, boots and pocket diaries have had enough! “We as our officers’ representatives cannot allow our service which has contributed tremendously to this nation as a key arm of the criminal justice system, to wait any longer, on the hope and a prayer that promises made, would one day materialise to bring safe systems of work. This situation if unaddressed, poses a danger to the lives of not only prison officers, inmates and our civilian support staff but the general public.”
The association has called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Minister of National Security Stuart Young to address the concerns.