Riot at prison

Prisons Commissioner Sterling Stewart said he has launched an internal investigation into the incident and expects a preliminary report to be delivered to him soon.

The confrontation began at about 6 a.m. when prison officers were giving prisoners breakfast as they prepared to take them to court..

It is at this moment that reports diverge from prison officials and prisoners.

Prison officials claim that they were attacked by prisoners who began to riot as soon as the cell doors were opened.

Prisoners who spoke to Express claim that they were attacked “for no reason” by the prison officers and they felt as though they had no choice but to defend themselves, especially since they alleged that they were “viciously beaten” by the officers during a raid some hours before.

In either report, the result was that five prison officers and seven inmates had to be hospitalised for injuries including stabbing wounds, broken teeth, deep cuts and welts.

Unfortunate incident

Prisons Commissioner Sterling Stewart said yesterday said the incident was unfortunate, but it had been contained quickly.

“My officers were attacked. Because of the information that we had —certain contraband were in a particular area of the remand prison—we sent in a squad to do a special search last night. The inmates said they were not taking anything like that, and they start attacking the officers with their pails and their buckets and whatever. There were a few inmates who attempted to obstruct officers from carrying out their search. But a quantity of improvised weapons, cellular phones and other contraband items were found and confiscated.

“Then this morning from what I was told, as officers were carrying out their duties they were taken hostage, if you will, at a particular wing in the prison. Inmates were armed with a number of knives and blades,” Stewart said.

Beaten for no reason

Prisoners at the Remand Prison however, claimed victimisation. They said that a particular group in the facility, who were mostly Muslims, were frequently targeted by prison officers and subjected to abuse. The prisoners alleged that on Tuesday night during the search of the cells, a group of prisoners beat several members of the group “for no reason” and warned them that they would be treated in a similar manner in the morning.

At about 6 a.m. yesterday when the officers returned, prisoners claimed the officials began cursing at the inmates and were “roughing them up” and they retaliated as such, leading to the confrontation between the two groups.

The situation had a domino effect for prisoners as relatives of male inmates were denied from seeing their loved ones, despite the fact that many persons had been waiting outside the Arouca Prison since 4 a.m. yesterday.

Why prisoners rioted

A visiting parent, Stephanie Neptune, said she had been told from her son that the inmates rioted due to the abusive manner officers dealt with inmates.

“They (inmates) riot, because they (prison officers) beating up the prisoners; put on mask, they throw pee on the prisoners, break up their hand, and buss up their head. All kinda thing my son told me those officers do to them,” Neptune said.

In 2013 Prof Ramesh Deosaran was head of a committee, mandated by the government to provide a report on how to improve the prisons system. He was left almost speechless at the state of the Remand Yard.

Ceron Richards, President of the Prisons Officers Association, said there’s been no improvement since then, not even after the Occupational Health and Safety board submitted a report on the Remand Yard a few months ago.

“Close down the remand prison. That remand prison is a hot bed. At any point in time officers and inmates can die inside that prison. There is no other option at this point. Especially given what took place today (Wednesday),” Richards said.


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