PORT OF SPAIN – The Prisons Officers Association has called for the resignation of National Security Minister Edmund Dillon as they stepped up their demands for better conditions, particularly at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) in Golden Grove, Arouca.
They also called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to intervene, saying they could no longer work under such adverse conditions including no alarm at the MSP resulting in their lives being at continuous risk.
At a press conference held outside the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca yesterday, association members were supported by heads of various trade unions including the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), Postal Workers Association, Fire Officers Association, Amalgamated Workers Union and the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union.
Addressing members of the media president of the Prisons Officers Association, Ceron Richards, accused Dillon of not caring about the safety of officers, saying the (MSP) had been functioning without an alarm system for the longest while.
Richards said there were about 3,800 inmates of which 1,700 comprised the remand population.
Describing prisons conditions Richards said, “All of our prisons are suffering from lack of infrastructural development. Our systems are old and we have a $6 billion budgetary allocation every year and we are still in this situation where the prisons cannot fulfil its mandate.
“Gates are malfunctioning. There is no alarm at MSP and we are continuing in an untenable situation. We wrote to the Prime Minister and we are asking for one thing….fire that minister of national security.”
Richards described Dillon as being “unresponsive” to the plight of “inmates, officers and the prison system.”
“He is very busy doing absolutely nothing for the Prisons Service. We want the Prime Minister to know you have a national issue on your hands,” Richards added.
He said while Rowley was “up and down the country talking about crime prevention” the heart of the matter lay with an efficient prison service.
But if such a service was non-existent then crime prevention would be crippled, Richards said.
President General of the OWTU Ancil Roget said safety of citizens was everybody’s business and restorative justice must also play a key role in shaping a healthy society.
He urged that priority must be given in establishing judicial court space to ensure justice would always be delivered on time.
“The Prime Minister was written to about the state of our nation’s prisons and we could be looking at a serious eruption in the prisons and when that happens then everybody would blame everybody else.
“If we do not fix our prisons people would go in and come out worse than when they went in. We are the ones incarcerated in our homes while the bandits roam free,” Roget said.
Yesterday also marked the two- year anniversary of the July 24, 2015 jail break when three prisoners—Allan ‘Scanny’ Martin, Hassan Atwell, and Christopher ‘Monster’ Selby shot their way out of the Port-of-Spain prison.
A disciplinary tribunal was appointed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to probe the conduct of three officers, Acting Superintendent of Prison Wilbert Lovell and Prison Officer Twos Lancelot Duntin and Mervyn Pierre.
Last week at a press conference, also held by the association, attorney Farid Scoon who is representing Lovell and Duntin, said he wrote to the commission and was still waiting on “full disclosure” from the PSC as he was yet to receive documents and statements.