Richards: More prison breaks possible if judicial system isn't fixed

The expectation of more prison breaks in T&T in the future is like a ticking time bomb if the Judicial System is not reviewed and fixed soon.

This was the grave concern of the president of the Prison Officers Association (POA) Ceron Richards, during an interview on CNC3’s The Morning Brew Tuesday morning.

On the heels of May 15 prison break at the Golden Grove Remand Yard Prison in Arouca where eight prisoners escaped, Richards said before the many questions, there needs to be an examination of the scenario.

“The Judiciary has to do better in T&T because that is the basis for all the frustration in the prisons. The inmates at that remand facility are very frustrated with the slow pace. The injustice has created an almost untenable environment and prison officers cannot manage the level of disenchantment towards the system,” Richards said.

Richards said he strongly believes that if the judicial system is not fixed, inmates will have the internal drive to execute what they deem as their own justice.

“At the remand yard there is a commitment from the government to upgrade and bring some measure of relief for inmates…their living environment and for the officers, their working environment but which is more inhumane, notwithstanding all of that, we have to treat with the mother of all evils, which is the judiciary,” Richards said.

“If we do not fix what is happening at our courts, at the judiciary, the problem would not be fixing the nucleus of the problem…if the nucleus of the problem is not fixed then the other fixes would just be plaster on sores,” he added.

Richards suggested that more funds are released to the Judiciary so that there would be enough courts, adjudicators, judges and magistrates.

He also spoke of the incompletion of the video conferencing facility, which is located just outside of the remand yard facility and said that that facility needs to be completed and wondered as to why the delay.

That facility has been under construction for the past four years.

The POA’s general secretary Lester Walcott, during the interview, mentioned that the remand prison population is at 60 percent of the prison population.

He said that is worrying especially where the ratio of inmates to prison officers are concerned.

Richards contributed to Walcott’s statement slamming the Public Service Commission (PSC) saying there are many delays in the recruitment and selection process.

“On the night of the recent prison break there was an alarming figure of prison officers on that shift…there was just a handful to man 950 inmates. We are dangerously short-staffed especially at the Maximum Security Prison and if that is not fixed we are afraid that something will happen,” Richards said.

“We (the Prison Service) don’t manage the process or recruitment and selection, it is managed by the public service commission…and to date, we have two batches of officers but yet we are to get a merit list from the PSC to begin training. There must be a more aggressive exercise to treat with staff shortage,” he added.

- Rhondor Dowlat

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