Trinidad prisons chief: Cellphones a lucrative business in jail

Ger­ard Wil­son

(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.


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