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Special Unit to deal with inmates—Prison Commissioner

Published: 
Monday, May 28, 2018
Prison Commissioner Gerald Wilson

Prison Commissioner Gerald Wilson said the prison service was now equipped with an elite high-risk unit to manage incarcerated gang members.

He said the unit was formed when he assumed office last November and will be responsible for keeping proper data, among other things.

“So that in the event that these persons come in, I have already started the process of keeping proper records and make it a lot more comprehensive so we have the data needed for persons identified as gang persons coming in,” he said.

In addition, he said, as Commissioner he knew that once the legislation was passed and became law “there would be an increase or influx in the amount of inmates, one of the things I have to be really concerned about is how we allocate them, and separation and things like that.”

Wilson said the Maximum Security prison is the “most modern prison we have and was done with separation in mind.”

While the prison authorities had been able to “manage” thus far when gang inmates are brought in, Wilson acknowledges “with this new bill, however, it may be a little more sensitive when inmates come in and are identified as gang persons.”

He said they had made “some room at MSP, and will make adjustments as we go along.”

Some work had been done at MSP and the capacity for prisoners is 3,000, according to Wilson. He said there are currently about 2,400 inmates at MSP.

If there is need, he said, the Eastern Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre (ECRC) in Santa Rosa, used in the 2011 State of Emergency to house inmates will be utilised.

“We will try to move out some of the lower-risk inmates from MSP and try to fit in those gang members, but is something that we will have to tweak as we go along,” he added.

President of the Prison Officers’ Association Ceron Richards said while the legislation is a “positive step in treating with crime,” the association has concerns about over-crowding and the safety and security of prison officers.

He said the remand yard facility in Golden Grove and MSP are the two prisons that will be “seriously affected and we are not getting the type of implementation necessary to secure a safe working environment for officers and a safe living environment for inmates.”

Richards said the proliferation of gangs have a “direct impact on the prison system, they carry on gang activities behind prison walls and they attack each other, we have to secure and separate them which is becoming an enormously difficult task given the fact that we do not have the luxury of space.”

He is calling for CCTV cameras within the prison walls to “monitor activities and detect crimes.” In addition, he said, officers are still without stab-proof vests at the remand yard at MSP and we have been begging the government to install a reliable alarm system.”

Wilson assured the officers that he had not been “sitting idly by knowing the alarm system which is critical is not working.”

He cited “bureaucratic issues, funding,” and some other issues, including “issues with providers and some other technical issues,” for the delay in “getting it organised,” but he assured “that is being dealt with and pretty shortly that should be in train.

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