Yesterday, just days after a prison officer was gunned down in the area where he lived, one of his colleagues who worked in the very same section—the Wayne Jackson Building at the Maximum Security Prison —was ambushed and executed.

Prison officer Nigel Jones was gunned down in broad daylight while holding the hand of his tender-aged daughter on a taxi stand, as they were going out on family activity.

The murders of Trevor Serrette and now Jones have once again brought to the fore questions about the safety of prison officers.

It has also dredged up concerns about any possible connection between those confined behind the prison walls and the nefarious, brutal crimes being committed against officers outside the prison walls.

Over the years, there have been numerous discussions, discourse, plans devised and demands from all parties involved, chief among them the Prison Officers’ Association, for safeguards to be put in place to protect the lives of officers and their loved ones in order to prevent them from experiencing the trauma and terror associated with such incidents.

Despite several efforts, including the Keep and Carry system, which allows prison officers to keep firearms off duty for their personal protection in special cases, attacks against officers continue unabated.

There have now been 27 prison officers who were hunted, ambushed and murdered in the last 30 years.

But killings have not been the only mode of offensive against officers, who have witnessed their homes riddled with bullets and even been forced to scamper to safety with their loved ones to escape Molotov cocktails and other forms of firebombings.

Following the slaying of Prison Superintendent Wayne Jackson in 2018, there were vociferous calls for more to be done to stop the violence towards officers.

There have been candlelight vigils, media conferences and pleas but the perpetrators continue to be emboldened and—given the circumstances of Jones’ killing yesterday—show absolutely no regard for those who witness or are impacted by their cruelty.

This is why no stone must be left unturned by the Government, Ministry of National Security and other arms of law enforcement as they go after the killer or killers of prison officers.

There must also be greater use of intelligence-gathering to stave off such attacks and in the unfortunate event it does occur, to bring all elements involved to justice.

That may very well include members of the T&T Prison Service, as some of them have been known to aid inmates in sustaining the links to the criminal world.

A strong message must urgently be sent to deter anyone conspiring to attack a prison officer in future.

It may also be time to alter the law books and make a crime against police, prison, fire or soldier an act of treason.

We can no longer sit idly by and offer lip service as the families and children of officers, much like Jones’ daughter yesterday, watch in terror as their world is callously shattered.