Illegal activities flourish behind the prison walls

Kaieteur News
January 22, 2007

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Some concerned prison officers believe that the Commission of Inquiry established by the Minister of Home Affairs to investigate the recent jailbreak at the Mazaruni Prison should be expanded to include probes into other illegal activities in the local prison system.

Speaking with this newspaper, the prison officers who are stationed in Georgetown said that such an inquiry would expose incidents of organised drug trafficking within the prison walls among other things.

Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee has established a Commission of Inquiry comprising former Police Commissioner Floyd McDonald, security expert Errol Van Nooten, and Prison Chaplain Faye Clarke to probe the circumstances that may have led to the break out of nine prisoners two Fridays ago.

All of the escaped prisoners have since been recaptured.

The prison officers, who did not wish to be named, told Kaieteur News that while senior prison officials boast about order and calmness in the facility, illegal activities abound and this could lead to unrest as was the case last year when prisoners protested the conditions in the main penal institution.

“Money is not legitimate in prison but yet the drug trade is flourishing. And this operation is what is causing some of the riots because on several occasions persons will get robbed,” a former inmate said.

They spoke of senior prison officers facilitating the illegal sale of narcotics in the jail.

“It is very difficult for prisoners to smuggle drugs into the jail and yet there is drug trafficking in prison. Who else could facilitate this but senior officers?”

Describing how the system works, the officer said that one of his colleagues who would manage to smuggle drugs into the prison would summon a trusted prisoner and give him the drug to sell to other prisoners.

“Inmates seldom say who gave them the drugs and in most cases the drugs are given to those inmates who are serving long sentences,” a prison officer explained.

Last year alone several prison officers were caught trying to smuggle drugs, mainly marijuana, into the prison and were all placed before the court.

Director of Prisons, Dale Erskine told this newspaper yesterday that the Commission of Inquiry will cover several aspects of prison activities.

He warned that wherever there is culpability, action will be taken.

“Let the chips fall where they may,” Erskine said.

According to the officers, all the blame for the jailbreak will fall on the junior ranks, since senior officials will try to cover their tracks.

Allegations of widespread stealing by senior prison officers were made.

The officers said that from gasoline to building materials are stolen by the senior officers.

One officer explained that some officers send junior ranks to refuel official prison vehicles with instructions to also fill a container for their personal vehicles.

Dry ration for the prisoners' canteen and building materials are also allegedly pilfered and find their way into the officers' homes.

“Even the prisoners' medication is taken away,” the warden said.

The officers hope that the new Minister of Home Affairs will act like his predecessor and clamp down on these alleged happenings since, according to them, the Permanent Secretary appears to be turning a blind eye.

“Several ranks went to the Ministry to complain and by the time they get back to work, the Director knows exactly who went to complain. Then you are victimised. So we had no other option but to expose this through the media,” one warden stated.