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Prison officer Stephon Richardson.

Deputy Commissioner of Prisons Mookish Pulliah yesterday expressed concern that criminals have taken over the country.

Speaking at the funeral service for murdered prison officer Stephon Richardson at the Mount Pleasant London Baptist Church in Indian Walk, Moruga, he added: “Sometimes a job takes you places where it’s truly heart-rending, having experienced the fact that over 24 prison officers have been killed in the line of duty for the past 30 years and within the past three weeks, three officers were shot and killed.

“That is not an easy task for an administrator. It is not an easy task for the family nor the country. It’s like the criminal elements have taken over and what do we do.”

Pullian said he considers the officers to be not only his charges but his children and it hurts him whenever he has to attend their funerals.

“When I see these young men being put in a coffin, my heart hurts. I often ask myself the joy of getting a job, the joy of getting a future in the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service and to meet with these ends…”

Recalling how impressed he was with Richardson’s demeanour and qualifications when he interviewed him for the job, Pulliah said he regarded him as the type of officer they want to have in the service.

“For the short time Stephon had been in the prison service he was well-liked he was dutiful and he carried his duty without fear or favour,” he said.

Pulliah encouraged the officers to continue to do their jobs diligently and to “work hard, be dedicated to service, keep strong, and hold fast to your faith and never allow yourself to fall prey or be influenced by criminal elements.”

Even as the family bade him a final farewell they still had questions about why Richardson, 30, was murdered. He was fatally shot in front of the same church where his service was held. He had only began his duties as a prison officer three months earlier.

Richardson’s childhood friend Quincy Jones said he had an infectious personality that everyone loved. He had planned to open his own business and marry Nikita Thomas, the mother of his one-year-old son. Following the funeral service, Richardson was laid to rest in the cemetery next to the church, which is also opposite his home.