Most of the weapons found in Saturday’s police raid at the Camp Street Prison were made from debris after the March 3rd riot and fire at the penal facility, Director of Prisons Carl Graham says.
“The instruments found… most are improvised weapons, made from materials from the beds the men were using and other materials accumulated when they had riot and fire, things they would have shaped into those weapons,” Graham told Stabroek News yesterday. It is unclear why this debris was left accessible to the prisoners. In the aftermath of the riot in which 17 prisoners were killed in a fire, there had been reports of wardens being threatened by inmates who wielded various types of weapons. The authorities had played down these reports.
In the early hours of Saturday, prison wardens backed up by the police carried out a search for contraband and weapons at the Camp Street prison.
The raid unearthed close to 200 deadly weapons, stashed in various parts of the cells and on the person of some of the inmates. They included mostly weapons made from the steel bars and rods of the facility, razor blades and garden files. A quantity of scissors was also found which investigators believe are mostly used for the cutting up of marijuana for selling. A quantity of the illegal drug was also found along with cigarette and lighters. The discovery of the drug would raise questions about security breaches at the prison even after the riots of early March. The deadly riot occurred one day after a raid was carried out and a large quantity of weapons and illegal items were found.
“We had to rely on proper timing because it would not have been wise to carry out raids, of this magnitude then, knowing the men were already incensed about the riot,” a Joint Services officer told Stabroek News.
According to the official, the raid was successful and the prisoners complied “although you still had some that cuss up and wanted to put up a resistance and that sort of thing”.
A total of 48 cellphones were also found and while Graham would not say if they will be used to investigate who the prisoners were in contact with, he said that it was an issue being looked at.
“With regards to the phones, that’s a security matter but I know steps are being taken,” he stated.
He said that “time will tell” if the phones seized, were being used by inmates to go on social media and other platforms of communication with the outside world.
The Director of Prisons said that investigations are being undertaken to determine how the illegal items are obtained by the inmates and that the possibility of staff facilitating them has not been ruled out.
“Of course we cannot rule out some things being thrown over the wall and there are always reports about staff that would take things in. Whenever we find a staff who are taking things in then we quickly get rid of them. I can’t say how the things are coming in but it’s a matter that is being investigated. Every-thing possible is being done to prevent things from going in,” he stressed.
The Camp Street Prison is also relying on the cameras mounted around the facility to help in its investigations. “We have cameras you know. Recently two men were apprehended on Bent Street after they were seen operating in a suspicious manner. The police arrested them and they were found with narcotics which we assume they meant to throw over the fence because that is the normal thing. We have cameras and security measures in place,” Graham said.