For months prior to his removal from the post of prison superintendent, the relationship between Albert Wade and Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin had been strained due to the officer’s alleged “autocratic” leadership style.
This is reflected in a letter from Wade detailing how Benjamin allegedly accused the then prison chief of trying to control and run Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) without the input of others or without informing others of his planned actions.
The breakdown in relations between the two became so bad — according to one letter – that Wade more than once requested to have his secondment terminated.
However, the details are only now coming to light, days after Wade was removed from the post of Superintendent of Prisons to function only in his (hitherto simultaneous) other post of Deputy Commissioner of Police responsible for Operations – to which he was appointed in April 2018, after asking since the previous year to be relieved of the prison job.
In a letter to Benjamin on May 29, 2017, Wade said he took no comfort in Benjamin telling him he was a very competent and knowledgeable prison officer, because in the same breath the minister accused him of being “severely autocratic” and further advised him to be “more diplomatic” when responding to others.
He acknowledged he would “endeavour to heed” to the minister’s “wise counsel.”
Wade’s letter also zoomed in on Benjamin’s alleged complaints that he, Wade, is elusive as there are a “litany of instances” where the minister could not reach him when he called or sent a Whatsapp message.
The then prison superintendent – seconded from the police force to the penitentiary in 2014 – said he did not have Whatsapp so it would have been impossible for the minister to reach him on it. He further stated that on one occasion of which the minister complained, May 21, 2017, he was at home and the minister would have been better off calling his landline.
Wade referred to a subsequent meeting with Benjamin where he was reportedly told he needed to improve and would be given a second chance.
But, he questioned, “What second chance?” as he argued that he had done nothing to be considered a failure who needed another chance.
He added also that there was no need to promise him a second chance as he had turned the prison “around and put it on a strong footing”, asking rhetorically, “Have I failed to reduce the violence and the frequent escapes? Have I not saved thousands of dollars of scarce government resources?”
Wade outlined that he also wanted to return to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda because he felt there were too many foreigners in positions at the upper and middle ranks.
In the document, which OBSERVER media obtained yesterday, he told Minister Benjamin: “I am mindful of your words and the words of so many others who have told me that they don’t want me back in the police force. But, as an Antiguan looking in at the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, there are very few Antiguans remaining in senior positions and very few Antiguans in middle management level. I therefore need to bring some balance.”
Wade suggested, “It is my considered opinion that I should return to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda. Even if it means locked away in an office by myself, the now defunct research and planning position previously held by my commissioner readily comes to mind.”
According to Wade, he decided what he wanted after prayerful consideration and in consultation with his family, and he went on to recommend a temporary replacement.
“I strongly recommend that consideration be given for Asst. Chief Officer Helene DeSilva who has demonstrated integrity, considerable knowledge of prison management, and firm leadership to act as Superintendent until a replacement can be found if desired. Alternatively, Senior Sergeant Browne will also be an ideal candidate for the post,” Wade wrote.
Prison and other sources within the public safety grouping confirmed to OBSERVER media yesterday that issues continued to pop up over the months after that letter was sent to the minister.
And the relationship continued to break down.
Last year, relatives of inmates and lawyers complained about new rules at HMP, including family being told that prisoners have to purchase water from the prison as opposed to relatives being allowed to bring them water, and changes to the rule about food being carried in for prisoners; while lawyers questioned a rule where they had to write/fill out a form in advance in order to see their clients, among other things.
On February 1, Wade’s secondment to the prison ended and it was announced by Cabinet last week.
In a media statement, Cabinet indicated, “The Cabinet approved the conclusion of the secondment of Prison Superintendent Albert Wade, who will be returned to the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Police Force. He will take up his position at the Police Force on February 1, 2019, serving as Deputy Commissioner for Operations. As Prison Superintendent, Mr. Wade was very well-liked and respected. He is credited with bringing reforms to the prison and improving some conditions.”
The statement added, “The Cabinet also approved the appointment, by secondment, of [Lieutenant Colonel] Eugene Phillip of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force to the post of Superintendent of Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP).”
Phillip served as a member of the Prison Visiting Committee for the past three years and took up his appointment as prison chief on February 1, 2019.