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The special prison unit moving in to quell the uprising at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca yesterday.

Prison officers had to call in additional reinforcement from a special unit to quell another attempt at an uprising at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca yesterday.

Guardian Media understands that inmates were protesting the failure of the judicial system because they were not being taken before their judges and magistrates for matters.

Prison sources said there was a stand-off between inmates and officers some time after 2 pm yesterday, where inmates allegedly threw their meals on the ground while cussing and quarrelling with the officers. Officers were also threatened.

A call for back-up was placed and armed officers from a special unit were called in to help quell the situation. Guardian Media was told the officers from the special unit were told to use rubber bullets if it reached to that.

“This is how they respond when you making noise to go to court to see a judge, to see the magistrates, to see the judge’s in the appeal courts and the inmates are not getting this right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic and no other measure is being put in place for virtual hearings as promised by the relevant authorities,” the prison source said.

Contacted for comment yesterday, acting Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan said: “As it stands, it is their food they have thrown away…I was informed and I told the Superintendent of Prisons to do his job and resolve the issue.”

Pulchan said he would not condone any type of violence from inmates.

“I won’t let inmates use violence to make a point. The MSP is filled with COVID-19 and most of the court administrators are not coming to the MSP…We had discussions to train officers to handle the virtual courts. For the time being…that training from the Judiciary has not commenced.”

Over the past weeks tensions have been rising among inmates, especially at the MSP and Remand Yard at Golden Grove, where to date 260 inmates have tested positive for the virus.

Last week (November 18), some inmates currently in the quarantine section at MSP also attempted a riot but that was quickly quelled. Several videos have been uploaded on social media showing poor unsanitary conditions at the prisons, with inmates expressing fear for their health now that COVID has penetrated the prison system.

Last week, the Prison Officers’ Association called on the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Health to recognise that the prison represents “an explosive set of circumstances that require a very focused and aggressive response to ensure the lives of the officers and inmates are protected as much as possible.”

The association said the provision of PPE equipment is either insufficient or absent and called for action.