PORT OF SPAIN – Prison officers fearing for their lives have started staying away from duty in the wake of the murder of their colleague Davendra Boodooram, who was killed after leaving work at the Port-of-Spain State Prison on Friday.
Others claim that their lives were being threatened.
In an interview yesterday, one of Boodooram’s colleagues said some officers were staying away from duty and even contemplating tendering their resignations.
“I spoke with him one hour before it happen. He said he going and take a lie down. It could have been me or anybody. They are scared to go to work and it have nothing to protect them. Right on Frederick Street a man get lick down. We come like targets, men not keen to come to work. We like sitting ducks. It not making sense getting killed for a few dollars,” the prison officer said.
Prisons commissioner Gerard Wilson yesterday said, “All officers are at risk, myself included, but I am prepared to die for what is right.” Wilson said prison officers needed to be vigilant as he noted the threats made on social media.
“No officer is immune to what is happening, not even me and there are some who are not afraid and some who are concerned for their family, but some are being told to leave the job.”
Wilson said he did not get an official report, but learnt that five prison officers stayed away from duty on Saturday.
“The strength was okay, I do not want to divulge the numbers but the prison executive has been doing all within its power. There were certain officers being targeted and we liaised with the police and it was done.” he said.
He said he heard rumours of officers wanting to leave the service but did not receive any resignations.
Wilson said, however, he had confirmed reports of five officers
whose lives are in direct threat. He also said there are many others who claimed that there lives are under threat, but they are yet to confirm those cases, especially the ones coming to his attention in the aftermath of Boodooram’s murder.
Not wanting to reveal much on the sensitive developments, Wilson said security measures are being put in place, some of which involves police officers implementing security measures.
Wilson said since he took up office as the commissioner of prisons, he has done things in a fair manner and in the best interest of both the prison officers and inmates, including Youth Training Centre and the Women’s Prison in Golden Grove.
“I do my work fairly and if the criminal element does not appreciate all I have done to make their lives better, then so be it . . . If people can’t wait for due process then what type of society do we want for our children?” Wilson asked.
He said he hoped that Boodooram’s death would not affect the new batch of recruits.
“It is a thankless job, who cares every time there is a heinous crime. There is a big outcry when they (officers) try to do their work. It is unfair to us. I treat them (prisoners) humanely and what hurts is that all you have is outcry,” he said.
Wilson said the government was now looking at legislation to protect the officers but it will take time.
“We are looking at attacks on officers and national security and other members of the protective service and it will be dealt with harshly. Yes, I know it have rogue officers and it is not perfect,” he said.
Prison Officers’ Association secretary Gerard Gordon said prison officers were the last vanguard and that strategies for them to operate must change.
“We are operating in a lawless place and they have to arrest this situation, we can’t continue like this. A man was killed because of something that happened on his job and he wasn’t involved,” Gordon said
“I want to encourage the police officers and support our commissioner and I want to applaud efforts by the commissioner, the attorney general and the minister. This calls for unified action.”
Funeral arrangements are yet to be made for the slain officer, however an autopsy will be conducted today at the Forensic Science Centre.
Today the association meets with national security minister Edmund Dillon on the way forward.