Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 14th 2015 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Tuesday, July 14, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 13TH JULY, 2015
A possible closure of the Remand Prison
is looming as the Prisons Officers' Associ-
ation (POA) has sued the State for what it
deemed breaches of the Occupational Health
and Safety Act (OSHA) at the Arouca facility.
Justice Minister Prakash Ramadhar, per-
manent secretary in the Justice Ministry,
Angela Sinaswee-Gervais, and acting Prisons
Commissioner Sterling Stewart have been
named as defendants in the lawsuit.
If the matter is successful, the State may
also have to shell out a tidy sum amounting
to close to $500,000 in fines for various vio-
lations of the act, as the POA is asking that
each respondent pay $20,000 or such other
sum prescribed by the court and that the
said monies be paid into the Consolidated
Fund of T&T.
In announcing the move during a press
conference at the association s Railway Road,
Arouca, offices yesterday, POA president
Ceron Richards also again called on Chief
Justice Ivor Archie and the "Judiciary to
resign" if they were unable to ensure that
justice was properly and swiftly adminis-
The eight-page lawsuit was filed last Friday
at the Industrial Court, Port-of-Spain, by
attorney Ravi Heffes-Doon on behalf of the
association. Richards said, however, that a
date for hearing was yet to be fixed.
Richards had initially threatened the action
last week after prison officer Kerwyn Boswell
was shot outside his San Fernando home.
The attack came weeks after prison officers
and inmates had a confrontation at the
Remand Yard while the officers were con-
The prison officers had claimed they had
intelligence indicating that a hit had been
taken out on them from behind the prison
wall. The hit man was reportedly offered
$50,000 a head.
At the time, Richards said the state was
continuing to fail in dealing with their major
safety issues in the prison. However, Ramadhar
on Thursday announced that Cabinet had
okayed some $12 million to implement a
CCTV system within the prisons.
Richards accused Ramadhar, Sinaswee-
Gervais and Stewart of failing to take "rea-
sonable, practical steps" to ensure the health
and safety of prison officers.
In outlining their case, Richards said their
• Absence of adequate ventilation. Richards
said in February 2013 over 70 per cent of 300
randomly selected inmates tested positive for
• Failure to provide toilets. Prisoners con-
fined to overcrowded cells for approximately
23 hours a day defecated and stored their
faeces in buckets.
Richards said besides the obvious health
risks, that archaic practice in a poorly ven-
tilated environment also presented serious
security concerns as there have been instances
where inmates have thrown the contents of
buckets on prison officers.
• Failure to provide suitable and sufficient
lighting. Richards said there was no lighting
at all in some parts of the prison, as lights
installed many years ago were "wholly inap-
propriate" for a correctional facility and were
easily tampered with by inmates.
"The opportunities for violence and injury
created by very dark corridors and cells need
little explanation," Richards added.
• The absence of certification by the Fire
Services stating that workers at the Remand
Prison have been provided with a means of
escape in the case of a fire. "This offence
under Section 26 (2) of the Act carries a fine
of $10,000 or imprisonment for six years,"
• Failure to have readily available firefighting
equipment. Under the Act it carries a fine of
• No emergency plan or procedure to deal
with the outbreak of riots.
"It is therefore clear that this complaint is
not about formal or technical contraventions
of OSHA but rather intolerable breaches which
threaten the health and life of officers,"
He said those matters were already brought
to the attention of the State and were high-
lighted in numerous reports, including that
of the November 2013 proposals of the Special
Prisons Committee which was appointed by
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
The lawsuit noted that prison officers did
not have the right to refuse to work, although
their safety or health were in danger, as other
employees did. Richards also reiterated the
call for arming prison officers, saying it had
now become very necessary.
Saying there were currently between seven
to nine inmates in a cell, Richards added: "If
we do not threat with overcrowding... that
in itself is the mother of all other circum-
stances because overcrowding breeds frus-
tration and the reason for the overcrowding
is poor administration of justice."
Some 400 prisoners will be transferred
from the Golden Grove Remand Yard Prison
to the Maximum Security Prison, Arouca,
bringing the total to be transferred there to
500 by the end of the process. Efforts to con-
tact Justice Minister Prakash Minister were
unsuccessful as calls and test messages went
President of the Prison Officers' Association (POA)
Ceron Richards says police officers in prisons is not
the answer to the current woes plaguing the sys-
He made the comment at a press conference yes-
terday in response to a suggestion by National Security
Minister Carl Alfonso that police or even soldiers could
be used to assist prison officers in manning T&T s
Alfonso s recommendation, during the opening of
the T&T Cadet Force s annual camp at the Barataria
North Secondary School on Sunday, came in the face
of continuing complaints from the association that
the situation within the prisons had become grim.
Yesterday, however, Richards said while Alfonso s
statements were "noble" and he was happy that he
was paying attention to the issues of the Prisons
Service, there were other measures which could be
implemented instead of placing police or soldiers inside
"But the emphasis should not be on police and the
military conducting any duties inside the Prisons Serv-
ice. There are remedies that can be applied. Prison
officers can treat with the prison environment provided
that there are remedies to treat with some of the issues
in the prison environment," Richards said.
On June 17, there was a confrontation between
prison officers and inmates at the Remand Yard,
Arouca. The clash left as many as 20 prisoners and
five officials hospitalised for injuries sustained.
Richards yesterday said the support was more needed
outside the prisons to ensure the lives of prison officers
were not snuffed out following death threats from
Last weekend, an officer was stabbed in the face
by an inmate at the Maximum Security Prison, he
revealed. The officer remains warded at the Eric
Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.
Another officer also reported that his neighbour
saw gunmen in his yard while he was not at home
and another, Kerwyn Boswell, was shot last week as
he came out of a vehicle.
"That is where we need, national security support...
on the outside... treating with officers safety and
security and providing the necessary resources so that
officers could treat with their own safety and security,"
Richards said. On the issue of salary negotiations,
Richards said it had not progressed. (GK)
No to cops, soldiers
behind prison walls
Safety issues can force shutdown at Remand Yard
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