Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan said yesterday’s protest at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca was fueled by ‘agitated young men’ who were not happy with their new cell due to a lack of privacy.
Around 9 am, prison officers had to respond to fires in three cells at the Wayne Jackson building, named after the slain superintendent who was killed outside his home in 2018. Pulchan said the inmates had jammed the locks and ironically his officers had to save them from the very fire they started.
“Officers could not get in to put out the fire so they used hoses through the bars to out it. Those sponge mattresses were lit by inmates who are in the same cell as the fire, so I’m trying to figure out why you’d want to endanger your own life.”
Pulchan said the fires were started by some young men who were recently transferred from the Port-of-Spain Prison but were not happy with their new accommodations. Guardian Media was told by sources within prison walls that inmates in that block were being denied medication, a bath and their airing time. The Commissioner said that was all nonsense.
“Let me tell you something that place has one big yard, we are airing people, we are feeding people, the infirmary officer goes to them and gives them medication, these inmates are just agitated because they have been moved from various sections where they had a level of freedom into a confined area where they can be contained and managed appropriately.”
Commissioner Pulchan said there are eight people in a cell there so the inmates have to understand that their privacy is limited.
“I don’t know what privacy they want, this is not HYATT this is the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service.”
Guardian Media was also told that inmates were upset because several so-called high-risk prisoners were being kept in that cell block such as Rajaee Ali and Phillip Boodram.
However, Commissioner Pulchan said they had nothing to do with the protest.
“Rajaee Ali and Phillip Boodram are well behaved, it was some young men who were transferred that is causing the agitation.”
Pulchan said before midday the situation was defused and a dialogue started with the inmates.
On June 24, explosives were found outside the facility’s compound in Arouca, when Guardian Media asked if that was linked to the transferring of prisoners, Pulchan said he would not comment on an ongoing police investigation and he’s not sure how a link could be established there.
As for the mattresses that were set ablaze, Pulchan said the inmates were provided with new ones.