THE EDITOR: Seven years ago, against the advice of my family and friends, I made a decision to become a prisons officer. I would like the general public to know that the job is one that is very dangerous and thankless, especially for the junior officers.
We work tirelessly for little compensation always putting the lives of our family members at risk. As with any organisation, there are rogue elements and low morale, but it is a career I have chosen to do for my country.
Within my first two years within the Prisons Service, the then Minister of National Security, Martin Joseph complained about the unprecedented amount of illegal smuggling of cellphones into the prisons system. We were branded as corrupt officers in parliament and decided to take a number of measures to reduce the illegal activity with regards to cellphones.
One such measure was a so-called “more robust checks of officers.” We were required to leave our cellphones at the gate before entering the compound. However, when this measure was introduced it was directed at junior personnel only. Up to today, I am astonished how such a policy to stop the illegal flow of cellphones into the prisons could have been applied with discrimination between junior and senior personnel.
Needless to say, this move resulted in a very low morale for junior prisons officers. It is no surprise that illegal cellphone use still remains a serious problem in our prisons system.
I am glad to hear that the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that the government will be acquiring cellphone jammers to be used in our nation’s prisons.
This is no new idea as several independent checks will show that such recommendations have always been made by officers, especially junior personnel. I commend the Prime Minister for taking action which other persons have failed to undertake with the same information.
Very soon, my wife and I will have our second child. I worry every day that they may become victims by an insider hit from an inmate. Soon, I would have one less fear as the prisons system will have the ability to stop such calls. And for that I will always be grateful.