Probe underway into source of contraband found during prison raid

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The August 3 prison search uncovered a variety of illicitly held items (Photo by Observer’s Orville Williams)
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Prison authorities continue to investigate the source of a significant amount of contraband seized during a raid at Her Majesty’s Prison earlier this month.

During the prison search on August 3, items including more than 60 cellular phones, a variety of weapons and illicit drugs, along with cooking equipment and alcohol, were found and confiscated, as the prison authorities worked alongside police personnel.

“The prison administration has initiated an investigation into that matter and it’s presently ongoing. At the conclusion of our investigations, the appropriate actions – if any is necessary – will be taken against all the offenders who are found to be culpable.

“The investigation is progressing and we are not going to relent,” Superintendent of Prisons Jermaine Anthony told Observer yesterday.

Anthony noted that, while the authorities were a bit taken aback by the amount of contraband found, it is normal to find the types of items seized during the latest raid.

“It was surprising, the quantity that we retrieved, but it is not unusual. We would have conducted several search and seizure operations of this nature in the past [and] as a matter of fact, this is the second such operation that I would have conducted as Superintendent of Prisons.

“My predecessors, Colonel Phillip and Deputy Commissioner Wade, would have conducted search and seizure operations of the same kind and would have recovered similar items,” he said.

Despite the fact the items are no longer in the possession of inmates, there are concerns about how the contraband entered the prison in the first place.

There have long been claims that unscrupulous prison officers continue to aid the inmates by smuggling items into the prison, and these suggestions have intensified over the past weeks.

Anthony assured that the system currently in place at the prison holds anyone accountable for such breaches.

“There is a disciplinary process for infractions of the prison rules, whether they are committed by our inmates or by Corrections Officers themselves. There is a process that is in place to address those situations.

“There are several penalties that can be applied based on the severity of the infraction, but it is for the Prison Visiting Committee to make the determination on what the appropriate course of action would be and make that recommendation to the ministry officials, specifically the Minister of Public Safety,” he said.

The prison boss also revealed that work is being done to address the issue of the prison’s physical security, in regard to situations where contraband enters the facility over its walls.

“We do have our challenges with the physical security of the prison itself. As you can see in the video that was broadcast across social media, an individual could simply walk out of the bushes and walk up to our perimeter fence without any sort of barrier preventing them from doing so, and would have items being pulled up on the wall with a piece of rope.

“We are in the process of creating a contingency plan to address concerns in regard to the security of the facility,” Anthony added.

Last week it was claimed that some inmates had bust out of the institution through a rickety piece of roof and made their way into the city where they broke into two telecoms stores and stole a number of cell phones.

Anthony said he would wait for police to complete investigations into the August 7 break-ins at the Flow and Digicel stores in Market Street, St John’s, before commenting on those allegations.

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