Acting Commissioner of Prisons Deopersad Ramoutar – Photo by Roger Jacob
PRISON Commissioner Deopersad Ramoutar urged members of the public not to help inmates to access cellphones as these items are mainly used to order “hits” from behind prison walls on people outside, addressing a briefing at the Ministry of National Security in Port of Spain on Monday.
He said illicit cellphones were not often used to talk to inmates family members, saying that could be done on telephones installed in prisons for inmate use.
He said 18 rogue prison officers have been arrested in two years for smuggling contraband items into prison, with two more arrests likely this week.
Ramoutar said a single cigarette can cost $100-200 in prison and that smuggled cigarettes are a form of currency in prison that can fund criminal activity.
At that price, the contraband items found on one rogue officer were valued at $500,000, the commissioner said.
Drawing similarities to a feeding frenzy of fish in an aquarium, he said when drugs or cellphones enter a prison, they create mayhem among inmates. He said inmates use cellphones to conduct extortion rackets of people on the outside, with attorneys complaining of receiving threats to their lives if they do not do certain actions for inmates.
Ramoutar said seasoned inmates threaten new inmates with harm unless their family members send them items.
He said contraband was once smuggled into a prison in a garbage truck. Criminals use drones to drop off items into the sea so as to wash up at Carrera Prison for inmates.
Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds paid tribute to prison officer, Nigel Jones, who was gunned down in Siparia while with his daughter, saying he had refused to be complicit in smuggling contraband into jail and was killed as a result.
He warned of a scenario in prison where a new inmate might be offered cigarettes only for other inmates to contact his elderly aunt to demand she pay $2,000 into a bank account, failing which her nephew would be hurt.
“You owe the cartel $2,000,” he lamented of the plight of such a woman.
Asked about cellphone jammers, Ramoutar said he did not know, saying, “Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one.”
Hinds said these were based at prisons but were operated by the Strategic Services Agency (SSA).
Otherwise Ramoutar said rehabilitation of inmates will be high on his agenda as new post-holder.