PRISONS Commissioner Martin Martinez has vowed once again to deal with prisons officers who, by their actions, bring the Prison Service into disrepute.
Martiniez told the Express yesterday those rogue officers have been engaging in the trafficking of cellphones and other illicit items and substances for their own personal gain.
"In that regard, we are working with other law enforcement agencies to deal with crooked officers," Martinez said.
"We find officers with marijuana; we find officers with cellphones coming into the prison; we find officers with cigarettes, which is an offence now, and they are arrested and prosecuted in the courts.
"We are not intent on tolerating officers who are operating below the line at all. Where we have evidence and where we have information and where we find officers engaged in illegal trading with inmates and clandestine activities with inmates, we take (action). We have had the fullest support of the police in that regard."
Martinez described the prison as a "microcosm of the wider society". "We have a lot of criminal elements and they don't automatically get good and well behaved when they join the service. They still come with their bad behaviours, they still come with their particular mindset and we have to deal with that."
Martinez said prison authorities have been trying to address the proliferation of illegal cellphones within the system.
"The fact is, the large amount of cellphones within the prison are there for 'legitimate purposes' in terms of inmates calling their families and calling their lawyers, etc.
"It is not right. But until we find an alternative legal phone system, which we are addressing at the moment (involving the use of a) phone card system for the prisoners, we will continue to have that problem."
Martinez dismissed a claim by Prof Selwyn Ryan that the Unemployment Relief Programme and the Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme are being controlled by gang leaders from within prison. The claim was made in a report on young males and crime in Trinidad and Tobago.
The report was commissioned by the government and is titled No Time To Quit—Engaging Youth At Risk. It was tabled in Parliament last Friday.
"There has always been talk that inmates are operating from within the prisons carrying out their drug trade, carrying out hits on prison officers and carrying out hits on members of rival gangs. That is only talk, as far as I am concerned."