Prison Commissioner Dennis Pulchan says he will leave no stone unturned in the quest to find those responsible for the murders of officers Trevor Serrette and Nigel Jones, who were gunned down in what is believed to be hits from behind prison walls.
Already, various arms of law enforcement, mobilised by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, have started working together to protect the remaining prison officers also marked for death.
In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Pulchan said since July he has embarked on a project to crack down on gang warfare and narco-trafficking inside prison and he believes this has resulted in the all-out war against prison officers.
He said high-risk prisoners who were controlling the contraband trade were placed in a heavily guarded Wayne Jackson Building, also known as Building 13. Thirteen officers stationed at Building 13 have been named on a hit list.
Pulchan said the high-risk prisoners can no longer engage in their illicit activity or party and hold fetes in their cells.
Pulchan denied that conditions at Building 13 were horrendous, saying all prisoners had bunk beds, regular meals and one hour of airing per day.
“There are toilets, we installed showers in the yard, lighting fixtures and there is an adequate flow of natural air. All the requirements demanded by United Nations are met in that building. To say there are inhumane conditions is absolutely wrong,” Pulchan said.
He said Building 13 was upgraded and additional prison officers were placed to ensure there is no gang recruitment from certain high-ranking prisoners.
But Pulchan lamented there were prison officers undermining efforts to clean up the prisons.
“There are officers, recalcitrant in nature, who are guilty of bringing in cellphones. I have arrested 18 officers from last year to now and they are before the courts for trafficking in contraband. We will terminate their service through due process,” Pulchan said.
He noted that Minister Hinds has met with various arms of law enforcement and has put systems in place to protect officers.
“The Minister of National Security is doing a fantastic job in giving cooperation and bringing the agencies together to treat with this problem. Nationally, an attack on a prison officer is an attack on democracy and an attack on our society,” he said.
He did not say what security measures were in place to protect officers.
Pulchan said inmates have damaged infrastructure at the prisons but noted that jammers are still utilised but are controlled by a separate law enforcement agency.
“We have seized knives. These prisoners break the light fixtures and take out the aluminium and shape it into weapons to harm each other,” he revealed.
Pulchan said raids will continue to ensure gang activity is stamped out.
“We have had meetings with officers and senior staff. We have asked officers to harden themselves as targets. We are into difficult times,” Pulchan said.
Asked what was the mood among officers and whether many were taking sick leave, Pulchan said no.
He said the majority of officers were diligent and worked out of love for their job.
However, he said criminals were also finding new ways to get contraband into the prisons.
“One of the latest trends in trafficking is the use of drones. The drones are flying over the prison and dropping packages. We are grappling with that problem now,” he said.
Pulchan also said it was regrettable that some prisoners were rejoicing over the death of Serrette and Jones.
“What kind of person will rejoice over the death of another human being?” Pulchan asked.
He said there will continue to be the highest level of security at Building 13.
“Any untoward incident will be dealt with in a clinical way. This is a prison we are running, it is not the Hyatt,” he added.
He noted that the prisoners in Building 13 have not made any demands as yet.
Efforts to contact DCP Mc Donald Jacobs and Minister Hinds for comment were unsuccessful yesterday as calls went unanswered.
Deputy Police Commissioner Joanne Archie also did not respond to questions about what assistance the TTPS is giving to prison officers, saying questions should be directed to the Corporate Communications Department and a response will be provided through the DCP.