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Wednesday’s find of explosive devices and weapons outside the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca is yet another troubling sign that all is not well within our nation’s prison system.

Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and National Security Special Operations Group (NSSOG) officers found C-4 explosives, three firearms and paraphernalia used to make homemade explosives buried outside the MSP early yesterday and immediately linked it to a jailbreak plot.

The exercise no doubt came following weeks of intelligence gathering but is nonetheless indicative of the myriad of issues the T&T Prisons Service is facing.

The area in question, located south of the facility near the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, is used by the prison authorities as a garden area where prisoners plant food crops. Law enforcement sources told this media house the explosives and weapons were buried there with the ultimate aim of smuggling them into the prison at a later date to be used known gang elements within the prison for the escape lot.

This incident comes mere weeks after a Defence Force member was caught smuggling marijuana and other items into the MSP. That anyone would be so brazen to attempt the latest act so soon afterwards, therefore, suggests there are either facilitating elements within the prison system or that individuals outside have absolutely no regard for the security mechanisms at the Golden Grove and Maximum Security Prisons—which is even more alarming.

Of course, society is fully aware of rogue elements within the service, a situation which prompted Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith to set up a special police unit to work directly within the prisons system in 2018, following a series of attacks against off-duty prison officers by agents of gang elements who called the “hits” from behind prison walls.

Following the latest incident, many citizens may have reflected on the prison break in 2015 at the Port-of-Spain Prison. Back then, police constable Sherman Maynard, who was on duty at the facility, was murdered and prison officer Leon Rouse shot by escapees Allan “Scanny” Martin, Christopher “Monster” Selby and Hassan Atwell, who were armed with a grenade and guns as they escaped. Martin was killed during a shootout with police at the nearby Port-of-Spain General Hospital, Atwell was murdered while hiding out in the capital and Selby eventually surrendered. Needless to say, the fallout from that jailbreak could have been more severe given the level of interaction those escapees would have had with the public.

It is situations like Wednesday’s discovery, therefore, that make citizens wonder whether TT Prison Service management has a comprehensive security plan for the facility. Surely, you would think the garden area, accessible to John Public as it is outside the prison and unfenced, would be one of the areas they would seek to secure and also ensure regular detailed security checks are made.

This is why this media house calls on Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds to ensure there is an immediate probe of the matter, alongside a review of the security protocols at the facility. There must be no repeat of the 2015 jailbreak.