Thursday, May 9, 2013

Editorial: Cellphone solution overdue - Reproduced from the Express newspaper

The longstanding problem of unlawful cellphones in the hands of prisoners is getting renewed attention with the Prime Minister’s statement about introducing jammers to blocks calls to and from cell blocks. Floated, as it was, at a UNC political meeting, we hope this matter will not be treated as mere political rhetoric and will get to the point of resolution.

The problem of unauthorised use of cellphones by prisoners has been with us for so long that it has become a norm.

In raising it some years ago, then national security minister Martin Joseph actually produced the results of an investigation into the number and use of phones by prisoners. His report came amid reports that prisoners were ordering hits from inside the jails using these phones. The fact that the problem remains unresolved is just another indication of the continuing management failures throughout the public system.

The real issue, however, is how are cellphones getting into the hands of prisoners? And having discovered the problem, how has it managed to go on for so many years?

The situation makes nonsense of the very idea of the Maximum Security Prison given the ease with which cellphones and other items pass in and out of the prison system.

The real problem, therefore, is what it reveals to us about the ineffectiveness of the prison’s security apparatus and about the commitment of the State and its agencies to solve those problems as a matter of the utmost urgency.

The role of prison officers in a reputed contraband network has long been fingered as the source of the problem. In this regard, everyone, including the Prisons Officers’ Association, has a vested interest in investigating this possibility in order to weed out rogue officers and restore credibility to the Prison Service.

Association President Ceron Richards makes a valid point regarding the recognition and protection of the rights of prisoners. An effective and well-managed phone system that allows prisoners to be in contact with their families and/or attorneys is vital to any modern prison service. What cannot be accepted are the security breaches that allow all manner of things, including cellphones, to get into our prisons.

Prison is no tea party. Among its population are some of the most hardened criminals to have ever walked this land, men and women who are prepared to kill just to have their way. We have heard before about prison officers being blackmailed into doing the bidding of those in jail under threat of violence to them or their loved ones. In these cases, cellphones in the hand of prisoners tilt the balance of power against the prison system.

This is a matter of deep urgency that deserves the attention of everyone with the responsibility to ensure the integrity of the security systems at the nation’s prisons. If this latest statement from the Prime Minister indicates a serious intent to find a solution, it is to be welcomed.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai