“Lock the door and leh dem bun”– Prisons Deputy Director blamed for inmates’ death

Inmate Collis Collison
Inmate Collis Collison

Deadly prison riot CoI

The blame for the fiery death of 17 inmates and the injuries to several others during the March 3, 2016 Georgetown Prison riot is being thrown squarely at the feet of Deputy Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, as more prisoners testified before the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), which was established to probe the riot, on Monday.

Inmates say Samuels, who on March 4, 2016 was sent on six weeks’ leave to facilitate the probe, gave wardens orders to lock the door of the burning Capital-A building with inmates inside.

Murder accused Kenneth Griffith, who testified on Monday as the CoI recommenced, told the three-member Commission that Samuels instructed prison wardens to lock the door after he was told inmates were responsible for setting a fire in the Capital -A building.

Inmate Trevor Williams
Inmate Trevor Williams

Griffith, who broke down during the testimony, recounted that Samuels asked the prison warden who was outside the door if he was responsible for the fire, to which the warden responded in the negative.

He said that it was at this point that Samuels said, ‘“…lock the door and leh deh sk**t bun…y’all ain’t light no fire? Come down and lock the door.”’

The accused murderer, who was housed in the Capital C building, said he personally pleaded with the Deputy Director of Prisons to free the trapped inmates who were shouting “murder”.

“I said Mr Samuels is people like yourself up there and he walk away … I don’t know if the other officers were intimidated by the gun in his waist, but they didn’t move,” Griffith added.

The Attorney representing the Joint Services, Selwyn Pieters objected to Griffith’s testimony, claiming that Samuels did not lead the task force, an assertion which was rejected by the witness, who continued to ask the Attorney if he was present during the incident.

Griffith said efforts by wardens to open the door were only made after Officer in Charge of Camp Street Prison, Kevin Pilgrim intervened.  “After Mr Pilgrim spoke to them, then they picked up tools and hose and ran but by then the smoke was heavy and whatever efforts didn’t help.”

The second inmate to take the stand on Monday was 23-year-old Trevor Williams, who said that a missile was hurled at Samuels from the Capitol B block, while carrying out an operation on March 3, 2016.

Williams could not confirm who threw the piece of rock. Inmates claimed that a search on an alleged ringleader in the Camp Street penitentiary, Collis Collison on March 3 sparked the uproar among prisoners who believed that he was unfairly treated.

Collision, who made a second appearance before the Commission, denied that he resisted the search and was non-compliant.

However, video evidence showed that Collison was engaged in a brief scuffle with members of the prison task force before he was restrained.

Under cross-examination by Attorney Pieters, Collision denied that he attacked a prison warden during the course of the search.

Instead, he claimed that he was beaten into a state of unconsciousness by officers.