(Trinidad Guardian) Illegal cellphones in T&T’s prisons have become a lucrative business.
The comment came from Prison Commissioner Gerard Wilson yesterday as he spoke in his first in a series of “Conversations with the Commissioner” which was streamed live on Facebook.
The conversation was aimed to interact with members of the public who posted questions or concerns they may have on the T&T Prisons Service and its officers.
Wilson admitted that the Prison Service has been working to re-engineer itself.
He said in 2019 the Prison Service will roll out a customer service programme to ensure that families of inmates have a pleasant visit.
“So they (inmates) will be provided with an account and they would be able to request from the officers what items they need.”
Asked what strategies he would initiate to reduce corruption and to weed out corrupt prison officers, Wilson said, “Within recent times they have been successful in arresting quite a few officers and visitors who come to the visiting room.”
In addition to increasing vigilance, Wilson said they now work with sniffer dogs to get illegal items out.
He said, “We have been able to crack what we may call more or less a drug load of activities. We will monitor officers who come into that net because we have been looking at some of the officers. We will have that surveillance to ensure that when they come into the system with these drugs that we would be able to hold them.”
He said the configuration of the prison dorms makes it difficult to access some of the illicit items or contraband brought into the prisons.
“One of the ways to deal with it is to have the dormitories outside. But if we can reconfigure how the dormitories are placed that should help a lot in how we fight this scourge of trafficking and contraband in the prison service,” he said.
Wilson also touched on the issue of illegal cellphones making its way into the hands of inmates, which he said, was a problem worldwide.
He said people on the outside come into the prison with the phones which he described as a lucrative business.
He added: “So they encouraged and coerced officers who may not be as principled as others to bring in these contraband items.”
As for threats made to officers, Wilson said they have since established a threat analysis unit.
Threats that are reported, Wilson said are assessed.
“Officers get threatened on a daily basis. All threats are taken seriously. Depending on the threat levels the prisons will also implement things that would assist the officer. We don’t sit idly by and allow officers to be threatened and not intervene.”
Stating that “we live in treacherous times, “Wilson pleaded with his officers to look after their personal safety.
“Know where you go. You have to know the company you keep,” he said.