President of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) Ceron Richards is threatening to take the state to court if something is not done soon about deplorable conditions at the Port-of-Spain Prison.
The report by the T&T Guardian reveals that the Food Service Department is a major source of concern.
A prison source sent photos showing large rats and cats inhabiting the ration room/diet shed and kitchen where inmates prepare meals daily.
“The prison is filled with vermin. We have had to deal with pigeon mites, cat fleas, flies, roaches and leptospirosis,” the source said, claiming one officer is believed to have died from complications related to leptospirosis two years ago, after allegedly coming into contact with contaminated items, but the matter was covered up.
Prisoners and officers alike are plagued by respiratory conditions, stomach problems and skin conditions believed to be connected to the conditions under which the food is prepared, the source said.
“Officers have to continue to take sick leave for lengthy periods at times because they keep getting sick. This is overbearing now and nobody is doing anything about it. The entire Port-of-Spain prison needs to be knocked down and built over from scratch,” the source said, noting officers are continually placed in financial difficulty due to the medical bills which are not fully catered to by their medical plan.
The walls and floors are covered with mildew and the drains filled with moss. The source, who provided the photos to support their claims, said this was not the only problem area.
Richards says legal action may be the only option as the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OSHA) is playing games with the health and safety of prison officers and inmates at the facility.
He said the POA has written several letters to the authority over the years, and has also had several conversations with former chairman Gaekwad Ramoutar, but only received frivolous excuses about why they cannot address the issues.
“There is an OSH board constituted by the Government, paid by the state and they are not functioning. They refused to go into Carrera, MSP and they refusing to go into Port-of-Spain,” Richards said in a telephone interview, adding it is their view the facility is not fit to be inhabited under current conditions.
Asked if Commissioner Sterling Stewart knew of the situation, Richards said everybody knows but they are playing games.
“I am telling you right now, the Prison Officers’ Association is looking at seeking legal redress for Carrera and we have sought legal redress for remand prison. We have an OSH matter before the court for Golden Grove prison and we will be seeking legal redress for MSP and Tobago prison as well,” he said.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (
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