Nothing more undermines trust and confidence in law enforcement authorities than a continuing pattern of relatively effortless escapes by dangerous prisoners. The latest, occurring on Christmas Eve, involved the escapee's successful scaling of the fearsomely high wall of the Port of Spain Prison, on Frederick Street, with nobody noticing so dramatic an exploit until later that morning.
As a result, Darryl Charles-Bissoon, convicted on October 6 of the 2005 murder of Colin de Landro, spent the Christmas holidays at a place or places of his own resourceful choosing, rather than in the condemned persons block.
While prison officials were still investigating how and why such a break-out, initially involving three prisoners, took place, the police, summoned to recapture the killer, were equally clueless about his whereabouts.
Even without surmounting the high-wall challenge of the Frederick Street jail, other prisoners have been able to shake off police officers escorting them to and from the courts and, just as effectively as Charles-Bissoon, to vanish without trace.
That prisoners continue to make a laughing stock of their police and/or prison guards highlights the operational slackness that is in effect condoned both by law enforcement authorities and by representative associations of the officers under whose watch fearsome evildoers simply walk free, to the detriment and heightening terror of the helpless society.
Unless this latest convicted criminal to wriggle through the butter-fingered clutches of the law is related to legendary American magician and escape artist Harry Houdini, he must have had some sort of assistance from either inside or outside the prison walls. Commissioner of Prisons Martin Martinez has appointed an investigator to look into the matter and submit a report in seven days. Why should it take a whole week to present a report on the escape? In the interim, Charles-Bissoon could terrorise some unsuspecting citizen or make good his escape by sneaking off to Venezuela or somewhere else on the South American mainland.
Swift action should have been taken and Commissioner Martinez should have had the report on Charles-Bissoon's escape in his hands within a couple days.
With the information provided, any leads could have been chased down both in and out of the Port of Spain Prison while the trail of the escapee was still fresh.
Commissioner Martinez has said the matter is of the "gravest proportion" and "if anyone is found to be in league with, or any working together between inmate and officer, that will be dealt with". We trust that swift and decisive action will be taken if any of his men had a hand in this latest getaway.
And it should not be just disciplinary action but the book must be thrown at them and they should be charged with aiding and abetting the escape of a convicted murderer.
Only the toughest measures will ensure that these escapes are halted, once and for all.