Six juveniles currently being held in national prison  

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Several youngsters are on remand inside the walls of 1735
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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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The man at the helm of operations at the country’s lone penal institution is opening up about what he says have been major struggles in his line of duty since taking up the leadership position in February.

One of the many challenges facing administrators at His Majesty’s Prison – along with infrastructure, contraband, and corruption issues – is the handling of youth offenders who are remanded to the facility.

Recent months have seen a significant spike in the number of criminal activities being perpetrated by young people, particularly boys, with some accused of what would be deemed petty crimes and others slapped with more serious charges, including murder.

Colonel Trevor Pennyfeather shared some details on the challenge of dealing with remanded youths inside the walls of 1735.

A 16-year-old boy was recently remanded to prison for the murder of Syrian national, Roudi Shmali, while another youngster was also remanded in connection with a robbery and wounding incident at St Joseph’s Academy.

“I have six juveniles who are now under my charge that really should not be there. It is a challenge because you have to try to treat them differently,” he said.

Pennyfeather said that to combat the issues at the institution “all hands must be on deck”.

He said that without the help of his officers, the job will continue to be tough.

“Some of the staff are quite willing, but if everyone would pull their weight it would make things much easier…You have a culture where one or two individuals make the work become more challenging or difficult,” Pennyfeather said.

According to the prison boss, operations will “go awry” if prisoners continue to have access to contraband.

While gaps in the prison’s physical security have allowed persons to unlawfully toss contraband over the walls, the long-held suspicion of prison officer involvement has not abated. 

There have been concerns for years among prison bosses and members of the public that officers have been complicit in the influx of contraband into the facility and into the possession of inmates on a regular basis.

Pennyfeather questioned why any prison officer would assist an inmate with acquiring items illegally.

“Don’t care how good you are, you cannot be in every place at the same time. You are dependent upon the individuals you work with to execute their duties fairly and if they don’t do that, if you have one or two individuals who, for whatever reason, be it by their personal interaction with inmates or by greed [assist prisoners], then the prison could go awry,” he said.

Senior prison officers recently underwent polygraph examinations amid efforts to stamp out ‘integrity issues’ at the penal facility.

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