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...Prisons' Officers Association will not support shutdown

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

THE Prisons' Officers Association (POA) will not support the State's plan to shut down Carrera Island Prison once concerns at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) remain unaddressed.

So said POA president Ceron Richards in a telephone interview yesterday, in response to a statement by Justice Minister Christlyn Moore that Carrera Island Prison is expected to be shut down by the end of this year.

The estimated 300 inmates currently being housed at the offshore prison are to be transferred to the MSP, located at Golden Grove, Arouca.

"We have no problem with the decision to shut down the Carrera Island Prison because obviously over the years it has not been getting the type of attention it deserves," Richards said.

"So we have no problem with the Government closing down the island prison, but what we cannot take is if the alternative is the Maximum Security Prison. We hope that Government will ensure that the Maximum Security Prison is up to the required standards."

Richards said the MSP currently does not meet the required standards.

He said if the security issues are not effectively addressed the Government would be putting the life of prisons officers and society at risk because of the type of prisoners that are remanded at Carrera Island Prison.

"As it stands now, the Maximum Security Prison is inadequate to move the Carrera population simply because we have a lot of security issues at the Maximum Security Prison in terms of the electronic facilities, the shortage of staff and so on," Richards said.

"If they have to move the inmates they must do all that is necessary to ensure that it is operating at the required standards.

"We will not support in any way the movement of additional inmates to that facility (MSP) without the security itself being upgraded."

Richards said he hopes the Government has the "political will" to ensure that the shortcomings at MSP are corrected before the move to shut down Carrera.

"We saw a prison built in two to three months so I cannot see the corrective work at MSP lasting a whole year, once the Government has the will and motivation to ensure the work is done," he said, referring to the construction of the Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre, which was built to house prisoners in the 2011 State of Emergency.

Richards said the closure of Carrera Island Prison would be a financially viable option as it costs the State as much as $20,000 a week to supply water there.

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