(Trinidad Guardian) The contracts for “Keep and Carry” firearms for prisons officers were expected to be signed yesterday.
This was announced by Minister of National Security Stuart Young during the People’s National Movement’s public meeting at the Five Rivers Secondary school on Saturday evening.
“I’m pleased that finally because sometimes things take a bit too long for my liking in the public service, we expect to sign the contract for the delivery of 250 firearms for our prison officers, keep and carry on Monday,” said Young.
Young had first announced the intention to get 200 to 250 guns for prison officers during last year’s budget presentation.
In February, when 250 stab vests were handed out to prison officers, Young had once again promised that the firearms would be coming soon.
“It shocked me that the prison officers did not have stab vests in the environment, we’ve delivered that and have immediately began the procurement of more,” said Young.
The announcement came days after the Special Operations Response Team reportedly stopped a hitman from executing an attack on a prison officer in east Trinidad.
Earlier in the week, a confidential report was leaked which stated that five prison officers had been targeted.
Young also addressed the leak during the public meeting.
“You saw what happened this week. Even though somebody leaked a confidential report of a threat we picked up, it did not frustrate our efforts. Intelligence-driven operations picked up the perpetrator on the outside,” said Young, who also explained that the response to threats to law enforcement officials had changed.
“You put out a threat on a prison officer, we’re not leaving the prison officer and the police to deal with it alone. Intelligence gets involved, the defense force gets involved,” said Young.
Since 2009, 16 prison officers have been killed. Four of them were murdered in the last two years. Last October, two officers, Superintendent of Prisons Wayne Jackson and officer Darren Francis were murdered outside their homes.
Another officer, Khalil Baksh’s home was firebombed, although he escaped harm.
When contacted yesterday president of the Prison Officers Association Ceron Richards said he was happy the minister appeared to making strides with regards to addressing the concerns of prison officers.
“We are seeing some positive moves from the Minister of National Security and we will want to encourage this Minister and Government to pursue these arrangements or these implementations which will have far-reaching positive effect for prison officers in the future,” said Richards in a phone interview yesterday.
Richards also acknowledged that the joint action by law enforcement agencies also seemed to be reaping positive developments for the officers.
He said, “Well the morale of prison officers have been taking a beating for some time now. You would appreciate, over the past few years a number of prison officers would have been attacked, a number of them would have been killed,” said Richards when asked about the mental state of the officers in the wake of last week’s reported attack, “What we are experiencing now is a collaboration between all of the agencies in national security which is bringing about some results. We hope that this intensifies as we go along.”