Authorities still battling to  keep contraband out of prisons
December 19, 2023
Authorities still battling to keep contraband out of prisons

Officers at His Majesty’s Prison (HMP) are still battling with trying to keep mobile phones out of the penal institution.

A senior prison officer, who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT during the HMP Week of Activities said most of the time family members are to blame for these and other contraband infiltrating the penal institution.

“I know there are some families who encourage the inmates here to do things are not in line with the prison regulations. They would throw cell phones for them, send credit. We would like them to desist from doing that. Because it doesn’t really help their loved ones in here,” Senior Prison Officer, Gareth Clarke said.

As a way to crackdown on infractions committed by inmates, prison authorities enacted a new policy for this year’s Family Day event.

“In years past, it (Family Day) was open to everybody. Whether you had infractions or not. But this year, we made some adjustments: persons who had serious infractions, they were excluded from this year’s activity. Like disrespect to officers, cellular phones, serious fights- those inmates were excluded.”

The new policy saw around five per cent of the prison population being excluded from this year’s Family Day event which was held in Kingstown on Wednesday, December 13 and at Belle Isle Prison on Thursday, December 14.

“The Family Day is something that they look forward to every year, so if they know that if they misbehave they will not get it, it will encourage them to be better.”

The Prison Officer said mobile phones continues to be at the top of the list of inmate-infractions.

In April this year, 46 cell phones were discovered among other contraband items during a search of the facility. Also found were 28 cell phone chargers, 23 cell phone batteries, 14 headphones, four ear pads, one power pack, 14 pairs of scissors, six diggers – used to inflict injuries during fights- one hacksaw blade, as well as marijuana, high lead and cigarettes.

This was part of the 120 cell phones that had been recovered from the two main penal institutions since the start of 2023.

Prison Officer Clarke said he recognized that family members may be desperate to have a connection with their loved ones inside but he noted, “… there are legal ways that that can be done. Inmates don’t have to have cell phones.”

He said that for Family Day, security clearance is given extra attention and since the event’s inception in 2014, they have not discovered anyone trying to move contraband into the prison.

“The families are subject to the regular security check and search for other things coming in. We don’t accept food, as we prepare food here and we sell it to the families.”

Prison authorities said they will be intensifying security measures to try to eradicate “as much as possible” mobile phones from the prison network.