Three days after a high-profile inmate currently housed in the Wayne Jackson Building at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca tried to elicit public sympathy over the recent killings of two prison officers, a joint unit of law enforcement officers raided the building and seized several cellphones and SIM cards.
Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan yesterday told Guardian Media that at about 3 am yesterday, a joint team of his officers, police and soldiers raided cells occupied by high-profile inmates believed to be involved in the recent hits against murdered prison officers Trevor Serrette and Nigel Jones. He said they recovered and seized 15 cellphones and SIM cards in total.
Pulchan said the devices were sent for forensic testing in an attempt to see whether key information could be extracted from them.
Prison officers raided the win against last evening, after pictures surfaced online from inmates who alleged they were beaten during the earlier raid. Prison officers, however, denied the allegations.
The raids came even as a new hit list naming 34 prison officers marked for death surfaced online, prompting Deputy Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob to direct some of his resources towards an investigation of the veracity of the information.
Initially, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) had said they had information that inmates had vowed to kill 13 officers, one a week, before Christmas. The killings of their two colleagues mere days apart prompted calls for a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in his capacity as head of the National Security Council.
However, after the inmate, via a media release issued through his lawyer, sympathised with the officers’ families but also claimed that prison officers were abusing inmates in the wing, the POA expressed disgust with the manner in which he attempted to “elicit public sympathy to justify the two cold-blooded assassinations.”
POA general secretary Lester Walcott described the inmate’s claims “as a most boldfaced and callous attempt to shift responsibility for these assassinations from the monsters who committed these acts.”
Meanwhile, the latest hit list posted on social media not only featured the names of 34 prison officers but also their addresses and other personal information.
Contacted yesterday, DCP Jacob said the threat was brought to the attention of the police soon after it began making the rounds on social media.
“What is happening and is clouding our work, is that people are bent on doing mischief when things are posted on social media. We now have to look at it and investigate to make sure that it has any truth to it and persons are trying their best to create hysteria within the country, so this list is placed out into the public, it could just be a normal list,” Jacob said.
He added, “We take the allegation of this list seriously and we are working with the prison to see if there is anything that is worthwhile in relation to the list and I do have the list because I saw it on social media.”
He said the police were still trying to ascertain the authenticity of the list and the source of it but their main priority was protecting the prison officers who may be in danger.
“The prison officers who we know are under threat and we have information, we are doing what is required to protect these prison officers and their families,” Jacob said.
Prison officer Trevor Serrette was killed last week Friday after he was ambushed while conducting sales at his fruit and vegetable stall in Valencia home. Colleague Nigel Jones was killed while waiting on a taxi stand with his three-year-old daughter in Siparia.
While PM Rowley has not yet agreed to meet with the POA, he has promised that the Government will do all in its power to protect them and will not surrender the nation’s prisons to inmates. – With reporting by Otto Carrington