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President of the Prisons Officers’ Association Ceron Richards outside the Golden Grove Prison, Arouca earlier this month.

President of the Prisons Officers Association Ceron Richards said yesterday he felts as though the T&T Prisons Service is being undermined by the Government and is calling on Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert to restart the negotiation process.

“It is enshrined in the law, Prisons Service Act 13:02. Imbert is telling the population that the government is not engaging in negotiations at this and then he gave reasons to substantiate what he is saying about the economy,” Richards said.

“We are saying that we are not only talking about money but the rights to negotiate. Of course, we can go around the table and the government will lay out their circumstances and the discussions can ensue and other things can be pursued. Salary is not the only thing that we negotiate but for also terms and conditions of employment,” he added.

Richards called on Imbert to “start the negotiating process and to realign himself and to realign the government to lawful conduct.”

Richards also disclosed that the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) in Arouca still remains at a safety risk, including its prison officers, with the non-functioning of the alarm system which has been down since 2013. He also mentioned the derelict vehicles that the service has.

“Why is the government continuously undermining the prison service? It is well capable in performing all operations under its mandate but we have been begging for resources and it’s not coming forward from the State.”

Richards also made mention of the Tobago Prison asking what’s the status of the new facility promised.

“The Tobago prison is falling into the sea and there is no scope for improvement. We do know that this current facility has broken all occupational safety and health concerns.”

Minister of National Security, Stuart Young, when contacted on the pressing issues highlighted by Richards, said he has always asked that the association write to him to apprise him of any issues that they have and “the Ministry would do its best to address what it can.”

“Over the past three years, we have implemented a number of significant projects at prisons to improve the environment for both officers and inmates. For example, work is being done to remand, extra security assets have been installed and more are being pursued, equipment was procured for prison officers’ personal safety and security and more is being procured and many other projects are underway,” Young said.

Young, however, assured that “there is certainly no disrespect being shown to the prison officers and proper communication is to be encouraged as has been my mantra throughout.”