Saturday, February 24, 2018

Walkout at prison

Officers worried about their safety


VOICING CONCERNS: Prison Officers Association president Ceron Richards speaks to reporters yesterday outside Golden Grove Prison during a walkout by prison officers over a number of outstanding issues, including their safety and security while on and off the job. Richards is flanked by POA general secretary Gerard Gordon and public relations officer Wendell Mitchell. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

THE Prison Officers Association (POA) yesterday called on Government to remove them from the Justice Ministry and place them back under the Ministry of National Security.

They also called on Prisons Commissioner Conrad Barrow to resign.

This was announced by POA president Ceron Richards, who led a walkout of prison officers from Golden Grove Prison to the car park yesterday afternoon where he held a news conference to alert the media to a number of outstanding issues.

Among their concerns was the issue of the safety and security of prison officers, whether on or off the job.

Richards recalled that a few years ago they had issues following the murder of one of their colleagues, Andy Rogers, who was killed in November 2013, which arose from a decision made behind prison walls.

He said what followed was the prison officers “withheld their enthusiasm” for the job which led to issues regarding visits to inmates by their relatives.

In the end, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar intervened after she deemed the situation a crisis and, as a result, a committee was set up to investigate the prison officers concerns.

According to Richards, recommendations had been made, including the purchase of scanners to monitor prisoners when they enter or re-enter the prison, as well as cellular telephone jammers which would prevent inmates from placing unrestricted and un-monitored phone calls.

It was also recommended by the committee that prison officers receive bulletproof vests while on duty.

However, Richards lamented that to date none of these recommendations have been implemented.

“Therefore, in light of this, we are calling on the Prime Minister to revoke the appointment of the Justice Minister Emmanuel George and the resignation of the Commissioner of Prisons, Conrad Barrow.”

He accused the Prisons chief of “wilfully withholding support for prison officers and it seems to us that the Justice Minister is in support of CoP Barrow.”

Richards also had an issue with the State’s Chief Personnel Officer, who he said was dragging her feet with regard to outstanding salary negotiations.