Sanc­tions should be placed on the com­pa­ny or sys­tem be­ing used for pris­on­er trans­port if it is found that many of the il­le­gal trans­mis­sions au­thor­i­ties seek to in­ter­cept from pris­on­ers em­anate from in­side those trans­port ve­hi­cles, says In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor Paul Richards.

Richards rec­om­mend­ed ac­tion dur­ing Tues­day’s Sen­ate de­bate on the In­ter­cep­tion of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Bill. This pro­pos­es in­ter­cep­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tions with­in pris­ons and in prison ve­hi­cles used to trans­port in­mates. It’s pro­posed that in­ter­cept­ed in­for­ma­tion will be ad­mis­si­ble as ev­i­dence in any pro­ceed­in­gs. The bill re­quires Op­po­si­tion and/or In­de­pen­dent votes for pas­sage.

When it was pi­lot­ed last month, Gov­ern­ment stat­ed mur­ders are com­mit­ted in T&T as a re­sult of pris­on­ers us­ing cell­phones and call­ing as­sas­si­na­tion plots, up to re­cent­ly.

Richards not­ed that while con­tra­band might em­anate from vis­i­tors or prison of­fi­cers, there’s al­so a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion where there are trans­fers of pris­on­ers from jail with trans­port by pri­vate com­pa­ny ve­hi­cles. He ex­pressed con­cern about pos­si­ble trans­fer of con­tra­band in the process.

“I know part of the bill speaks to in­ter­cep­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in ve­hi­cles in prison and on the roads, but we al­so have to look at whether we’re pay­ing a con­trac­tor mil­lions of dol­lars and whether they’re part of the prob­lem—we need to fix that.”

He said at­ten­tion is need­ed re­gard­ing the sit­u­a­tion where in­mates are moved fre­quent­ly from Port-of-Spain and Gold­en Grove Pris­ons to courts and back, and they might get ac­cess to con­tra­band.

He said, “We al­so need to ask and analyse what pro­to­cols are be­ing used in the trans­fer of in­mates and if we find out that many of the trans­mis­sions sought to be in­ter­cept­ed in this bill are com­ing from in­side those trans­porta­tion ve­hi­cles, we need to put some sort of sanc­tion on that com­pa­ny or that sys­tem that’s be­ing used be­cause it’s a loop­hole in the sys­tem…the (Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty) Min­is­ter has said ‘shots’ are be­ing called by in­mates in prison.”

Richards ex­pressed con­cern about Gov­ern­ment state­ments that a cer­tain high pro­file, high-risk pris­on­er is still get­ting cell phone calls in jail. “If they can’t lock down high pro­file high-risk peo­ple we have re­al prob­lems,” he added

He said cul­prits couldn’t call an as­so­ciate “out­side” and say an op­er­a­tion was “go­ing down to­mor­row,” but they might have a fake Face­book pro­file and send cod­ed mes­sages that way.

He called on Gov­ern­ment to en­sure that con­ver­sa­tions of pri­vate cit­i­zens and busi­ness­es with­in the range of the in­ter­cep­tion equip­ment wouldn’t be af­fect­ed. He al­so queried con­tin­gen­cies in the bill for re­porters whom in­mates may com­mu­ni­cate with to share atroc­i­ties which oc­cur in jail. He said UK and Aus­tralian laws cater for such as­pects in­clud­ing pub­lic in­ter­est.

He added the Port-of-Spain State Prison should be con­demned. Richards said the walls are so old, in­fra­struc­ture can’t be af­fixed to them.

Reporter: Gail Alexander